Ticks in the Balkans. Any danger?


Mar 18th, 2014, 07:35 AM
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Ticks in the Balkans. Any danger?

Hello one and all!

I will be travelling to the Balkans region of Europe for the month of April, specifically to Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia. I am very keen on doing outdoor activities on this trip, things like hiking, rafting and mountain biking.

Virtually all the travel books that I read pertaining to these few countries warn of the prevalence of ticks and the diseases they carry - encephalitis and lyme disease. Both of these are quite serious afflictions. Furthermore, I was informed that tick bites can be quite common if one walks unprotected in high grass and forested regions.

Is the tick problem really as serious as it is made out to be in travel literature? Do I have to precautionary measures when I go out into the wild? And if so, what exactly should I do to prepare? There is a vaccine available for encephalitis, but it takes over 6 months to complete the vaccination process. I have not got the luxury of time, unfortunately.

Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.
PolarityMan is offline  
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Mar 18th, 2014, 07:39 AM
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Ticks often wait near watering places so they can jump onto nearby animals. Might help if you wore long sleeves, etc., and used some sort of repellant.
Dukey1 is offline  
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Mar 18th, 2014, 08:17 AM
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Not "some sort of repellant," you need DEET.

Picaridin is better than DEET for biting flies but doesn't work against ticks.

And go to insectshield.com and check out the offerings. Permethrin-treated clothes will kill the little blighters.
BigRuss is offline  
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Mar 18th, 2014, 08:38 AM
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Wearing long sleeves and long trousers plus socks reduces the skin area for ticks. A hat can be a good idea too.
Check your body every day for ticks. They are small red or black spider like creatures before they attach to you. After attaching they quickly swell to grey lumps.
Use a tick key or lasso to remove any that attach. Never try to burn them off with a cigarette or cover them in oil. If you do they will empty the contents of the stomach into your bloodstream.
If you are bitten keep an eye on the bite site and if you develop a bulls eye ring around it, which gets bigger then get to a doctor asap for antibiotics.

Having said all that you probably won't be bitten. I live in a tick ridden area and am constantly removing them from the dog, but in 30 years I have never been bitten, and DH only once. In his case he developed the ring and was successfully treated.
hetismij2 is offline  
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Mar 18th, 2014, 07:59 PM
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Thanks for all the replies.

Do you think that deet is necessary? Or would wearing long-sleeved clothing be sufficient. I did some googling and found that there is an amount of toxicity in deet, and I would very much like to limit my exposure to the substance unless absolutely necessary.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 08:12 PM
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I'm not sure if this information is relevant to your question, but just in case....

While in Croatia, I went to Cigoc and the Lonjsko Polje National Park, where I was apparently bitten by an unidentified insect; I wasn't aware of the bite itself, but the result was a growing and increasingly painful welt that didn't dissipate for several weeks. It was NOT a tick. I'm not sure what it was, and my physicians ultimately recommended against a biopsy as long as it continued to dissipate, which it did.
kja is offline  
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Mar 18th, 2014, 10:52 PM
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Ticks are widespread in Eastern/Central Europe and are normal part of the fauna in Southern Bavaria as well. But not even here, that many people get the vaccination as it only helps against encyphalistis and not against Lyme.
hetismij told you how to "screw them out" with a small tick removing device that you get at any pharmacy.
The most important part is to check your body (and especially the parts that are not always "visible" for ticks every evening if you have been hicking.
Ticks do not "jump" on you, but the most common attack is that they just let themselves fall from branches or bushes. So in addition to repellents and long-sleeved clothes, the best way to avoid is not to blaze your trail through shrubs and low-hanging trees, but stay on trails and try to keep a distance from low-hanging branches.
Aside from the usual vaccination cycle, there is also a "High-speed" cycle - but also that needs 3 shots in 3 weeks (plus a 4th one year later).
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Mar 18th, 2014, 10:53 PM
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Sorry for all the typos.. HIKING, not hicking.. good grief..
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Mar 18th, 2014, 11:16 PM
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You're not going to like the answer but the best way to minimize exposure is to wear long pants tucked into your socks (fortunately the convertible hiking pants nowadays are comfortable and keep you cool), long-sleeved shirts, and a broad-brimmed height. Even if you drench yourself in insect repellant, you should do a tick check daily.

The six month deal for the TBE vaccine is for maximum protection. I am sure that your doctor would agree that some protection is better than none.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 01:48 AM
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Lyme disease is endemic on the coast of southern New England where I live. Ticks also carry Babesiosis and a couple of other nasty diseases.

In our area -- and this may be very different in Italy and the Balkans -- these diseases are not carried by dog ticks but by deer ticks, which are tiny, not much larger than a period/full stop on a magazine page.

The three defenses are DEET, long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, and taking off all your clothes and having someone go over your entire body very carefully every day when you come indoors (what you do after that is your business ;-) ). It takes roughly 24 hours for these ticks to attach to your body and infect you. A shower will not dislodge them.

In something more than half the cases, Lyme disease will present with a bulls eye rash, a red circle separated from a red outer ring by an expanse of ordinary skin. Lyme disease is fairly easy to treat if you catch it early. If you see the rash or have flu-like symptoms when you return, go to your GP immediately, tell the GP you have been exposed to a tick borne disease, and ask for an immediate referral to an infectious disease specialist.

Untreated Lyme is insidious. It is like having a constant case of flu with terrible joint pain, and it may affect your cognitive abilities as well. Babesiosis is worse.

Vaccines are not considered reliable in our area after raising a lot of hopes. Tests for Lyme are not conclusive. Avoid exposure.

If you wind up at a doctor with symptoms, have her/him look up Dr. Timothy Lepore in Nantucket. He knows as much as anyone in the world about the clinical management of Lyme.
Ackislander is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2014, 01:53 AM
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You're right about Lyme disease vaccines but TBE vaccines are reliable.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 01:58 AM
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Dukey1, do you think you might have meant leeches rather than ticks?
cathies is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2014, 11:01 AM
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As a local (Slovenia), I can only repeat what others have said. Use repellent, avoid high grasses and bushes if wearing clothes that expose your skin, try to get vaccinated against TBE and most importantly, check yourself for ticks daily!

Ticks are common and not every tick carries diseases, but I do personally know of a person who got TBE, so it's far from impossible and some precaution should be taken.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 12:37 PM
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< I did some googling and found that there is an amount of toxicity in deet, and I would very much like to limit my exposure to the substance unless absolutely necessary.>

Of fer crissakes, you're worried about minute levels of "toxicity" in a compound approved for MORE THAN daily use on humans compared to the real consequences of Lyme disease? Googling about DEET will get you all the anti-chemical nutters' treatises on it without any rational discourse.

You're afraid of Lyme disease and TBE, then take the necessary steps to prevent them. Good clothing alone won't do it if you have a gap anywhere (cuffs, collars, socks, whatever).
BigRuss is offline  
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Mar 19th, 2014, 01:51 PM
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Ticks that are vectors for Lyme disease pick up the bacterium from mice (not deer) when they are in the earliest stages of their life. Later -- when they get too big to feed off mice they drop off and wait where they fall for a bigger mammal to walk near enough. In New England that might be a deer or a human being. In Croatia that might be a goat or a boar or a human being.

It absolutely necessary that you use Deet as an anti-tick repellant. You also need to educate yourself about what a tick habitat is and how to avoid it.

Don't sit on stone walls. Don't walk through high grass or picnic there or lie down in it. Avoid walking through brush. Wear long pants tucked into your socks. Use DEET. Carry a tick remover with you. If you remove a tick from your body do not crush it with your fingers. Wash your hands. Flood the area where you removed it with water. Do not scratch and rub it.
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