If there is an insect that we overwhelm with all evil, it is the tick. Dr Élisabeth Baux, you are an infectious disease specialist at the University Hospital of Nancy and coordinator of the Grand Est-Bourgogne Franche-Comté Reference Center for tick-borne diseases (CRMVT), is this bad reputation really justified?
“Of course, the tick contains different pathogens, viruses, bacteria or parasites. However, it is not because it is a carrier of these agents that it has the capacity to transmit them to humans or animals. Not all ticks have this ability to transmit. On the other hand, even if it had this capacity, it does not transmit an infectious agent in all cases. For example, for Lyme disease, it has been proven that it takes at least 24 hours of attachment for a tick to transmit the bacteria. This is located far inside the tick and it must migrate completely during the blood meal for it to reach the human being. »
The tick transmits Lyme disease, but not only…
“Tick-borne diseases are diseases that will be transmitted following a tick bite. The most common in our regions is Lyme disease or “Lyme borreliosis”. Other diseases are much rarer, such as rickettsiosis or tick-borne encephalitis, which is asymptomatic in most cases and manifests itself, in rare cases, by a banal flu syndrome. Even rarer, you can also have serious neurological complications that can lead to death. The disease that has been spotted the most recently in the Grand Est region is tibola, which is characterized by a large tick bite on the scalp. When we remove the tick, we have a blackish spot that will form at the level of the bite, then the appearance of lymph nodes at the level of the neck and associated signs. It’s not serious. The disease will heal spontaneously with or without an antibiotic. Its particularity is that it leaves a scar where the hair does not grow back. »
It’s interesting because the prevailing discourse suggests that the risk of contracting Lyme disease is very high…
” In effect. However, a certain number of parameters must still be met. Already, the tick that bites must carry the bacteria. In the Grand Est, it is estimated that 10 to 15% of ticks are carriers. Then, this tick must bite you long enough, so 24 hours. And after that, your immune system must still not be strong enough for the disease to develop. That’s a lot of obstacles. »
And even if, by bad luck, one is infected, it is not said that one will develop the most serious form of Lyme disease?
” Of course. It’s even quite rare. A Swiss study shows that 95% of people will not develop anything or will develop it late. Therefore, disseminated forms of Lyme disease, either neurological or articular, are extremely rare. You should know that 95% of the forms of Lyme disease diagnosed in France are erythema migrans. It’s that red, flat spot around the bite. When it has been seen, diagnosed, antibiotic treatment is put in place and there is no evolution towards a disseminated form of Lyme disease. In addition, whatever the stage of the disease, you should know that there are treatments to cure it. »
The Grand Est is still the region of France where Lyme disease is most prevalent?
“Yes, with Limousin. »
“Visible two or three days after being bitten”
For us, is it therefore important to inspect your skin regularly after a walk in nature?
“Yes, because there are no other warning signs, such as itching, at the site of the bite. The redness appears between three and thirty days after the bite, so you have to be vigilant throughout this period. You have to think about it. »
Your recommendations for protecting yourself?
“You have to dress in light colors, not because it’s a tick repellent, but because with light colors you can see ticks better. Then, you have to cover your legs and arms well. We also recommend a hat. Afterwards, in secondary prevention, you have to examine your whole body to see if a tick has settled there. You should particularly look under the armpits, in the navel or behind the ears. If one is found, it is removed immediately, either with a tick puller or with tweezers. No need to go to the doctor or pharmacist. Above all, do not use ether, alcohol… because the risk is that the tick regurgitates when it dies, when it is asleep. Once removed, it can be disinfected. Note that the tick may be more visible two to three days after biting, when it is engorged with blood. »
Wednesday, May 25, national day of awareness and prevention of tick-borne diseases organized by the Reference Centers for tick-borne diseases (CRMVT) and supported by the University Hospital of Nancy. Appointment with Dr Élisabeth Baux from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the Parc de la Pépinière in Nancy with Citique and the Grand Est Regional Health Agency at her side. At 6 p.m., “webinar” on the Nancy CHRU Facebook page.
The tick removal technique
No, the object is not only used on cats or dogs! Removing a tick on an arm, a leg or any other part of the human body (the tick really sneaks everywhere…) is possible with a tick puller, this small hook which imprisons then extracts the animal when it is rotated. Otherwise, tweezers will do the trick. If the head remains under the skin after extraction, it doesn’t matter, you just have to disinfect the place of the bite. The tick, indeed, has nothing in its head… at least not its pathogens, which are in its body.