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Tick Spot and KME Virus Transmission

Tick-borne meningoencephalitis virus (BTV) is transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. About a third of people don’t even notice the tick bite because it is painless. All forms of the tick prey on humans. However, the risk of tick bites is highest in people who spend a lot of time outdoors or in natural hotspots of the CME virus for work, study, recreation or living.

Klop’s Peak

A tick on a person first finds a suitably tender and well-blooded spot on the skin and attaches itself. Ticks are most commonly attached to the hairier, covered parts of the head, ears, hands, arms, groin, knees, hands and feet. The host does not feel the prick as the tick’s saliva acts as a kind of local anaesthetic. This is why people, especially children, usually don’t even notice a tick. Even if an infected tick bites, the host is not always infected. Infection can also occur without any signs of disease, so it may not even be detected.

All developmental stages of the tick prey on humans, but nymphs, which feed on the host for several days, are the most common. After feeding, they transform into adult ticks. In each developmental stage, the tick needs at least one meal of blood from the host to develop into the next stage. Adult females need food to hatch their eggs. Ticks are characterised by a long life cycle, which also helps to maintain the virus.

Virus transmission and detection

The CME virus circulates in nature between ticks and their hosts. These can be small mammals, wildlife, domestic animals or humans. The transmission rate of the virus in small forest mammals is quite high, so ticks can become infected with KME virus through sucked blood. However, larger hosts, such as humans and large mammals, are the definitive hosts of CME virus and do not transmit the virus. Once a tick is infected with the CME virus, it keeps it for life. The virus starts replicating in the tick when it enters the tick’s intestinal tract. The next time a tick finds a host, it can pass the CME virus to the host in its saliva.

What To Do?

The best defence against the KME virus is to be vaccinated with a vaccine that protects against the more severe course of tick-borne meningoencephalitis (BTV).

We report for testing immediately if we suspect that KME infection has occurred for these reasons:

  • infected tick spot
  • drinking uncooked goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk or dairy products from an infected animal

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