Living in Finland

Beware of ticks!

A tick
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Ticks have become increasingly common in Finland. They have spread probably because of the climate change, which has brought us the mild winters. Another contributing factor may be the increased travel with pets. People take their dogs and cats with them as they go on holiday. Ticks have been observed in the southern Lapland in areas where they have never been seen before. Some researchers believe tourists from southern Finland have brought them, most likely with their dogs.

There are two species of ticks harassing both people and animals. The common European tick Ixodus ricinus is native to Finland. The newly found Siberian tick, Ixodus persucatus has probably invaded Finland from the east.

Ticks seek mammals in order to feed on their blood. Voles and mice often have ticks, but they are also common on deers. When ticks find a suitable animal, they look for a soft spot on the skin and attach to it with their mouth. For example eye corners and armpits are favoured by ticks. Blood sucking takes 2-7 days. Then the tick is ready to leave.

Both tick species can carry bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It causes an infection called the Lyme disease. The first symptoms are a circular rash around the place where the tick was attached and a flu-like fever.

The most tick infested places are lush forests and meadows especially in southern Finland. However, ticks are common also on the western coast, eastern, and central Finland. More about the geographic spread of tick in Finland here and here. When picking blueberries and mushrooms it might be a good idea to tuck your pants into socks. This will prevent ticks from climbing up your legs.

Should you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it as soon as possible with tongs. You can find tick tongs for sale at the pharmacy. If the tick remains in skin for more than 24 hours the probability of catching Lyme disease increases significantly. The infected people are treated with antibiotics. However, not all ticks carry the disease. At present about 15-50% of ticks carry the bacteria. In Finland about 7 000 people are treated for Lyme disease every year.

The other disease, which is also caused by the ticks, is called TBE (tick borne encephalitis). This virus causes meningitis and encephalitis. Both are dangerous conditions. 10-20 % of those who fall ill, may develop permanent neuropsychiatric consequences. The mortality is 1-2%. In Finland, about 40 cases are diagnosed yearly.

Luckily, there is a vaccination against the TBE. It is easily available from private clinics and also from the so-called tick bus. The price for one shot is approximately 50 euros and in order to get full protection three shots are needed.

We’ll discuss other Finnish nuisances in a tutorial that’ll come out this summer. The tutorial will also have tons of other content. Keep your eye out for it!

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