Safe Travel: Ticks in Bavaria

by amuc001

When you travel abroad, you’ll often have questions concerning security. Questions like Are there no go areas? or Can I drink water from tap?. Unfortunately these kind of questions are often not mentioned in guide books and you have to search for information. I love to tell you about the city and the culture, but I will also answer these questions, every tourist has. This time, I want to tell you about a little annoying insect.

Every spring, when the snow and ice melts and temperatures rise, the Bavarian nature awakes. Green leaves grow, and all animals come out again. Unfortunately also those little annoying insects, which are in search of blood. Now you’ll surely think about mosquitos. But this time I want to tell you about ticks in Bavaria.

Woods south of Munich - a habitat for ticks (photo by wheretostayinmunich.com)

Where can you find ticks?

Ticks exist everywhere in the world. In Bavaria and southern Germany, you’ll find most often „Ixodes ricinus“ the so called castor bean tick (German: „Gemeiner Holzbock“ or more common „Zecke“). While other ticks are specialized on dogs, hedgehogs or mice, the castor bean tick also likes human blood.

Ticks can be found in the following places in particular:

– Below 1.000 metres (ca. 3.300 ft.) above sea level
– In meadows, especially with tall grass
– City parks and gardens
– Hiking trails
– in the underwood
– at forest edges with bushes and undergrowth

When are ticks active?

Ticks are less active when it is cold or frosty. However, as soon as the temperature rises above 0° C (32° F) in Bavaria, they become active and begin their search for a blood meal.

In particularly mild winters, they may therefore remain permanently active. Severe cold tempoeratures in winter kills a considerable number of ticks, but this means that a higher number of ticks often survive after mild winters, which increases the risk of tick bites during the following spring, summer and fall in Bavaria.

Ticks also like it humid, so that their activity increases considerably, for example after a summer rain.

Why ticks can be dangerous for humans in Bavaria and southern Germany

Ticks can transmit bacteria and viruses, especially the „Lyme-borreliosis“ (German: Borreliose) and the „tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)“ (German: Frühsommer-Meningoenzephalitis – FSME).

While the Lyme-borreliosis (bacteria) can be cured with antibiotics (when there is an early reaction), the TBE (virus) can’t. But you can have a vaccination against TBE.

Unfortunately, Bavaria is a so called „high risk area“ where ticks can transfer TBE and Lyme-borreliosis. But „high risk area“  doesn’t mean that you’ll find ticks in every bush and on every leaf. High Risk Area is defined since 2007 as a region that has a significant higher number of illness cases than predicted. Usually the predicted rate of TBE-cases is 1,3 : 100.000.

Especially in woods and meadows you can find ticks. If you’re not vaccinated and you want to have a picnic on a meadow in a rural Bavarian area, maybe you should rethink your plans. Even the risk in „high risk area“ is quite low, you always should be aware of the possible threat

What you shuld do as a traveler coming to Munich and Bavaria

Let me get this straight: The risk of being bitten by a tick is manageable, although almost all of Bavaria is a high-risk area. So the thought of a tick bite should not make you cancel your trip to Munich, Bavaria or Southern Germany.
Especially if you only plan a city tour the risk is really low.
But if you plan to explore the woods around Munich, lie in one of the many city parks or at a lake in the meadow and sunbathe, or go for a hike in the Alps, your risk will obviously increase.

The Bavarian and German health authorities recommend tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) vaccination for all persons in high-risk-areas, regardless of age.
As a traveller, you should therefore think about what you are going to do during your trip to Bavaria and its neighbouring states. If you are planning a very nature-loving trip where you will be out in nature, you should talk to your doctor about a vaccination against TBE, even if ticks or TBE are not present in your home country.
Usually a TBE vaccination is given in three steps to ensure complete protection. You will need to take this into consideration when planning your trip.

Regardless of being vaccinated or not, you should take the following precautions when you are out in the nature. When you’re hiking, camping or doing sports in woods and meadows or doing other activities, where you often have body-contact to your surrounding nature, at least try to do the following:

– In woods/forests: Better use regular paths/dirtroads; don’t bushwhack through the forest (which is usually also forbidden).

– Wear (bright coloured) clothes. On dark colours you’ll have problems to see ticks

– „Close“ your clothes (for example tuck the pant legs into your socks)

– Use repellents (not really effective, but better than using nothing)

– Inspect your body regularly (while doing your activities) and at home. Especially areas where ticks can hide from the body movement (behind ears, armpits, hairline, hair, private parts, back of the knee, bellybutton, folds in the belly, etc.)

Further information for travellers

Now you know the main facts about ticks in Bavaria and Southern Germany. You can get more and detailed information about ticks, the transmitted diseases and vaccination on the website www.zecken.de. The website is also available in English, Russian, Turkish and Polish.

Photo (article-photo) by Erik Karits on Unsplash

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