Sciensano appeal: Register your tick-bites and send us the tick
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Sciensano appeal: Register your tick-bites and send us the tick

The same kind of tick, before and after feeding. © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/Wikimedia

For the last year, Sciensano has been a daily presence in our lives, issuing the daily bulletin of Covid-19 figures and numerous other statements and opinions about the coronavirus.

But it is, after all, the federal health institute, so Covid is not its only concern. And in that guise, Sciensano today issued a call to the public.

Tick season is almost upon us, so people walking in the woods and countryside are warned to beware of the tick, a parasitic arachnid measuring from 3mm to 5mm, depending on the species, age, sex and how much blood it had sucked today.

The tick will lie in wait on the leaves of trees and bushes for you to brush by, and when you do, it will attach itself to you and drink your blood.

Needless to say, that behaviour makes the tick the perfect vector for disease, and ticks can carry bacteria, viruses and protozoa. So it pays to be on your guard: nobody wants to spend a year avoiding other people’s aerosols only to be brought low by 3mm of insect.

Luckily, it takes the tick some time to do its utmost damage, to the advice is always: if you have been out in tick country, inspect each other immediately afterwards. And if you find a tick, remove it carefully, using tweezers to ensure the mouth-parts are also removed. Then apply an antiseptic.

And get in touch with Sciensano.

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Last year there were 9,935 reports of tick bites in Belgium – 4,821 in Flanders, 237 in Brussels and 4,877 in Wallonia. The season started in March, reached a peak in June and dropped off slowly in July and August.

When interpreting the 2020 results, we have to consider the possible impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on population behaviour,” the institute said in a statement.

For example, there may have been more leisure activities in nature and more holidays in the home country, which may have contributed to people being more exposed to ticks. However, we have no certainty about this.”

Going by reports, however, they can say that most bites – 77.1% – took place within a radius of home, and the vast majority – 90% – occurred during leisure activities.

If the worst should happen, report the bite to the TiquesNet/TekenNet website.

The website also gives details of how you can send in the offending tick to Sciensano, and how you can sign up for a follow-up if you have been bitten.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times