Ticks in the garden - an underrated danger

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It is not just a walk in the woods, a visit to the quarry pond or a leisurely day's walk that gives you the opportunity to catch a tick. According to a study by the University of Hohenheim, gardens that are far away from the edge of the forest and are well maintained are increasingly a playground for the blood-sucking eight-legged friends. One reason why parasitologist and research director Prof. Dr. med. Ute Mackenstedt recommends searching for ticks after gardening and vaccinating against tick-borne diseases such as FSME in central and southern Germany.

Since 2014, the research team has moved to Prof. Dr. med. Mackenstedt twice a month to go in about 60 gardens in the Stuttgart area on tick search. White cloths are pulled over grass, borders and hedges where the ticks get caught and then collected. In the laboratory of the university the trapped animals are then examined for the dangerous pathogens.

TBE hazard areas

We still have a strong north-south divide in Germany as far as the threat posed by TBE is concerned

"For garden owners, the subject of ticks is so relevant that around half of them are involved in the examinations," says Prof. Dr. med. Mackenstedt. The diseases resulting from a tick bite, such as TBE or Lyme disease, affect the population so much that the researchers are already sending out catch kits and getting back the captured ticks by post.
If ticks are found during a fishing operation, their type and the condition of the garden, the distance to the edge of the forest and possible carriers such as wild or domestic animals are recorded. "What surprised us was that we found ticks in all the gardens, and sometimes only a single bush is affected", says Prof. Dr. med. Mackenstedt. "It was noticeable, however, that even gardens are concerned, which are well maintained and several hundred meters from the edge of the forest."

Ticks in the home garden

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How do the ticks get into the garden?

In addition to the ticks own spread by their movement, the main reason is probably in wild and domestic animals. "We found species of ticks that are mainly distributed by birds," says Prof. Dr. med. Mackenstedt. "Others put on deer and foxes also tackled long distances." Wild animals such as foxes, martens and raccoons also increasingly enter urbanized areas and bring along with our pets such as dog and cat the unpleasant new garden dwellers. Rodents have long been in the focus of researchers. For example, the ZUP project (ticks, environment, pathogens) has been researching the influence of habitats and rodents on the spread of ticks for almost four years now.
As part of the project, which is funded by the Ministry of the Environment BaW├╝ and the BWPLUS program, the rodents are captured, identified, collected ticks and examined both candidates for diseases. "It turns out that the rodents themselves are usually immune to meningitis and Lyme disease, but they carry the pathogens in themselves," says project staff Miriam Pf├Ąffle from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). "Ticks that suck the blood of the rodents, take the pathogens and thus become a source of danger for humans."

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What can be done against ticks in the garden?

Ticks can not really be spewed out of the garden. However, you can make their stay more unpleasant if you take them the opportunity to retreat. Ticks love moisture, warmth and undergrowth. Especially the undergrowth and foliage provide good protection against excessive heat in summer and a safe place to spend the winter in winter. If care is taken that the garden is as free of such protection as possible, then it can be assumed that it does not turn into a tick paradise.

FSME transmission cycle

Self-protection against ticks

If one observes some rules of behavior in endangered areas, one can strongly minimize the danger of a tick bite:

  • When gardening, wear clothes that are as closed as possible. Especially the legs are often the first contact for the ticks. Long trousers and rubber bands or socks pulled over the hem prevent the ticks from getting under clothing.
  • If possible, avoid tall grass and areas with undergrowth. Ticks prefer to stay here.
  • Light and / or monochrome clothing helps to recognize the small ticks well and to collect.
  • Insect repellents provide protection against the bloodsuckers for a period of time. Viticks has proven itself as a good protective agent.
  • After gardening or a trip to nature, you should check your body for ticks and, if possible, put your clothes straight into the laundry.
  • In hazardous areas, the vaccination should be kept active because TBE viruses are transmitted immediately. Lyme disease is transmitted from the tick to the human after about 12 hours. Here you are so even hours after the tick bite is not infected with the pathogen.

TBE vaccination

Special child vaccines can protect against TBE

Are children particularly at risk?

Children prefer to stroll through the garden and are especially endangered by ticks. No wonder, then, that the Robert Koch Institute found that children often have Borrelia antibodies in their blood. This means that her immune system has ever had contact with an inverted tick. Fortunately, the body of children and adolescents copes better with the TBE viruses, which is why the disease course is often harmless in them, as it is the case in adults. It has also been shown that after infection with TBE viruses, two out of three adults, but only every other child, have to be hospitalized. In addition, a well-tolerated child vaccine provides some protection against the disease.

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