Number of ticks and tick-borne pathogens on the rise in Estonia
Text Mark Taylor Photo Erik Karits / Unsplash
Both the number of ticks as well as the tick-borne pathogens have increased significantly in Estonia in the past 10 years, according to a study completed by the National Institute of Health Development.
In the summer of 2020, the National Institute of Health Development mapped the most tick-prone parts of the country. Between May and August of 2020, they received almost 15,000 reports regarding 23,064 ticks.
Surprisingly, 35 per cent of all ticks mapped were found in back gardens, this was almost the same as forests, brush and unmaintained roadsides combined.
In total, the National Institute of Health Development studied more than 3500 physical tick samples for pathogens such as those that cause neoehrlichiosis, human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), tick-borne relapsing fever (TBRF), tick-borne rickettsioses, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis.
The presence of at least one pathogen was found in 62 per cent of the ticks tested. One-fifth (20 per cent) were carrying more than one pathogen. The highest proportion of pathogen-carrying ticks was found in Tartumaa (77 per cent), and the lowest in Ida-Virumaa (39 per cent).
The most common pathogen found in the ticks was tick-borne rickettsioses, being found in 35 per cent of all tested ticks. Tick-borne rickettsioses can cause fever, a headache, a rash as well as muscle aches. In very serious cases, meningitis can develop.
The next most common pathogen found was Lyme borreliosis, which was found in 28 per cent of all ticks. Tick-borne encephalitis was only found in two of the 3500 ticks studied.
Tick-borne encephalitis is the only tick-borne pathogen that can be prevented by vaccination. Tick-borne encephalitis can be extremely severe, causing paralysis and loss of cognitive function.