Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Tick-Attack No.2

Surprisingly, not a place to find wood ticks
My youngest daughter has finally come into contact with the dreaded wood tick. It was on the back of her hand while she was in her Kindergarten forest class this morning when her little friend saw it and pointed it out (luckily the children here are incredibly clued up on them) A teacher immediately plucked it off and then sprayed the infected area. The red mark has disappeared now (a few hours later) but I will be vigilant, checking the site on her hand for the next couple of weeks.

Ticks are really nasty little creatures which can cause Lyme disease (affecting the nervous system) and a form of meningitis - encephalitis (TBE) Worst of all it seems that the Canton of Zurich is in the centre of an endemic - see map here.

After my eldest daughter had a tick episode early on after our arrival in Switzerland (I'm convinced it was by the stepping stones at Zurichhorn Park) I took both of my girls to the local doctor to receive the TBE vaccination – which involves three – yes, three – injections. The first two are given within three months of each other and then the third is followed up a year later. The vaccination is of the child-friendly kind and can be given to any child over the age of one.

So my girls are now pretty safe from tick-borne encephalitis - but there is no vaccination for Lyme disease, although – if caught quickly – it can be remedied with antibiotics.

Which for me has dampened my enthusiasm for our many pursuits 'im Wald' but as most of life centres around the woods here I have to grit my teeth and desperately try not to shriek at my dear children each time they lunge into the undergrowth, which is teeming with diseased ticks (in my mind anyway)

You see, not only do we live in the middle of a Tick-Attack in the middle of Zurich, they love deciduous woods with abundant undergrowth (which surrounds our village) and hang out a the edge of the forest and on forest paths lying in wait on low growing plants until some poor unsuspecting warm-blooded host (person or animal) brushes against the plant. However, they do not fall from trees.

You can take precautions by covering legs and arms and using repellent. But of course this does not entirely protect against them, especially when you have little ones running willy-nilly though the forest. Always check for them after a trip to the woods (they especially like to hide in arm pits, the creases of legs and behind ears – so a thorough body check is required)

It is important to remove a tick as soon as you find it. Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal device to grab the tick and pull it straight out (we have also been advised to stick it to a piece of sellotape and keep it as it provides valuable information for the doctor in any event of infection) After the tick has been removed, disinfect the area and make a mental note of it. If the victim has a fever or other symptoms after being bitten by a tick, call a doctor.

So here I am once again, watching daughter no.2 with bated breath, desperately hoping any dodgy 'bullseye' looking rashes will fail to develop. And fighting against the compelling instinct to avoid woods and other wild vegetation until Winter...

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