Dr. Jiří Adamec: Tick seasonArticle
17. 04. 2023 General practitioner
Almost 10% of ticks occurring in the Czech Republic are infected with Lyme disease and 2% of ticks carry encephalitis- when spread to humans, these serious conditions can affect the affect the nervous system and can cause serious physical and psychological problems such as depression, nervous paralysis, high fevers and severe headaches when transferred to humans. While Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, there is no cure for tick-borne encephalitis. Therefore, the most effective prevention is vaccination and, in the case of Lyme disease, precaution.
Tick season is around the corner and the following rule applies more than ever: to be informed is to be prepared.
After a long winter, we are finally starting to get a bit of warm weather, which is exactly the kind of environment ticks thrive in. They become active as soon as the temperature rises above 5°C. In general, these bugsare found in grasses and shrubs taller than 20 cm. Everyone should therefore check themselves after a walk, as ticks are carriers of many diseases affecting the nervous and immune systems. Among others, these include Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. "In the case of encephalitis, it is an infectious viral disease affecting the nervous system. Surveys show that 2% of ticks in the Czech Republic are carriers of this virus," explains Jiří Adamec, a general practitioner and head doctor at Canadian Medical, adding: "Lyme disease, on the other hand, is a bacterial disease that mainly affects the skin, joints and, like encephalitis, the nervous system. Nearly 10% of ticks infected with this bacteria are found in the Czech Republic."
How to recognize the disease?
Because both tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease have the same symptoms at first, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between the two serious diseases. "Both diseases initially manifest as classic flu-like illnesses. The patient is tired, may have muscle aches and headaches, and may also experience lack of appetite, nausea or a high temperature. The difference is mainly in the speed of onset. It takes about two to five days before the symptoms of tick-borne encephalitis appear, as opposed to bacterial Lyme disease, where symptoms can appear as late as four weeks after infection," explains Dr. Jiří Adamec, MD, of Canadian Medical.
The second phase of encephalitis usually lasts about 2-3 weeks and can leave permanent effects. "In the second phase, the patient experiences much worse symptoms. These include vomiting, high fever, neck stiffness and severe headaches. Tick-borne encephalitis can also affect the centre of the nervous system. This infection can lead to paralysis," says Jiří Adamec, MD. Tick-borne encephalitis also affects the psyche to a large extent - the disease can cause depression as well as sleep/concentration disorders. In contrast, the second phase of Lyme disease is manifested by blue-black discoloration of the skin, most often on the outer parts of the limbs. Without treatment, this form of Lyme disease can persist for decades. If the disease is left untreated, the bacteria can begin to invade the patient's nervous system and severely damage their motor and sensory apparatus.
There is no cure for encephalitis
While Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics for about 2 to 3 weeks, there is currently no targeted treatment for tick-borne encephalitis. Doctors can only treat individual symptoms. Unless it is a complicated case, hospitalization lasts about 2 weeks and subsequent recovery from 2 to 4 weeks. Therefore, the only effective prevention against tick-borne encephalitis is vaccination. This consists of three doses. "A patient can be vaccinated at any time of the year. The second dose should be administered no more than three months after the first dose. The third dose is recommended 5-12 months after the second dose," explains Canadian Medical’s Dr. Jiří Adamec.
Dr. Jiří Adamec
Lab tests are the only way to be sure
Due to the long time interval between vaccinations, it is easy to lose track of when you were last vaccinated against a disease. In this case, the ideal solution is to have a test for tick-borne encephalitis antibodies. This will give patients an indication of whether their immunity built up by the vaccination is still high enough. The test will also allow the patient to know when it is the right time to be vaccinated. "We perform the test from a blood sample. Therefore, it is crucial that the test is done on an empty stomach and the patient drinks at least ¼ litre of water before the the blood draw. In an ideal world, the patient would be fasting for about 12hourse before the test. The results are available within a week of the blood test. In addition, our experts will be happy to help with the interpretation of the results and answer any questions patients may have," says Petr Podroužek, MD, CSc.
As there is still no vaccination for Lyme disease, it is very important to monitor your condition closely after a tick bite. "To prevent the infection from spreading and becoming chronic, it is very important to treat the disease. If the patient wants to be sure of his or her health, we recommend that he or she undergo a Lyme disease test. The results are available within a week and treatment can be started immediately if necessary," concludes Petr Podroužek, MD.