SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

HEALTH

Ticks in Sweden: How to avoid them and protect yourself

You know about elk and bears, but in Sweden one of the most dangerous creatures is one of the smallest: the tick.

Ticks in Sweden: How to avoid them and protect yourself
You should be especially careful of ticks when spending lots of time in woodland, such as when camping or hiking. Photo: Jan Collsiöö/TT

When and where do you find them?

Ticks can be found all over Sweden in forests, meadows, and long grass, meaning the biggest risk is when you’re out in nature – especially hiking, camping, or berry-picking – but they can also be found in city parks in affected areas.

Ticks are active when the temperature is higher than around 5C, but are most common during the summer months. Tick season is roughly from March to October, with most bites occurring in summer.

What diseases can they cause?

In Sweden, the two main tick-borne diseases are Lyme disease and Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Lyme disease (also called borrelia) causes no symptoms in around half of all people who catch it. For others, it can cause skin redness, headaches, and pain, and can attack the nervous system. Symptoms usually appear between two and six weeks after the bite, but can take longer.

TBE is a viral brain infection, which can cause a range of symptoms, usually starting with typical flu-like symptoms and then developing to include nausea, dizziness, and in around a third of cases, severe problems. Symptoms usually appear around a week after the bite, but can take longer. There is no cure, but it can be treated, and there is a vaccination too.

While ticks are found across Sweden, ticks carrying TBE are mostly concentrated in certain areas in the southern half of the country. Data from the Public Health Agency shows where most cases of TBE have been reported; in 2019, a total of 359 cases were reported in Sweden, most of them in central southern Sweden in the area between Stockholm, Södermanland, Uppsala and Östergötland to Västra Götaland and Värmland.

Ticks are tiny, but you should be able to spot them on your skin if you check carefully. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

How can I protect myself?

Lyme disease has no vaccine but can be treated, while TBE cannot be cured but both a vaccine and treatments are available.

Because of the risk of Lyme disease, even if you’re up to date on your TBE vaccines, you should still do what you can to prevent ticks.

If you’ll be spending time in wooded areas with long grass, especially those known to have a high tick presence, take precautions like wearing long sleeved clothing and tucking trousers into socks. Try to avoid brushing against long grasses by walking along the middle of the path where you can.

After returning home from a day out, you should check carefully for ticks and shower shortly after coming inside. This can give you the chance to remove them before they bite, for example if you spot them on your clothes. Putting clothes in a tumble dryer for one hour should kill ticks.

An example of the redness caused by Lyme disease. Photo: Claudio Bresciani/SCANPIX/TT

What if I get bitten?

If you do get a tick, you should remove it safely. The sooner you can do this, the lower the risk that it will be able to infect you with Lyme disease as it can take up to 24 hours for the bacteria to be transferred.

It can be done with a special tick remover (which you should be able to buy at most Swedish pharmacies) or tweezers. The important thing is making sure you remove the whole tick, by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling slowly. Then, wash and clean the bite, and contact a doctor if you’re worried, especially if you experience symptoms of illness in the weeks after being bitten.

Photo: Staffan Claesson/Scanpix/TT

How can I get a TBE vaccine?

Vaccinations are recommended for those living in areas with TBE-infested ticks, and/or who spend a lot of time out in forests.

You get three doses within the first year (or four if you’re over 50), each one increasing the level of protection, another dose after three years and then will need top-ups every five years. Because you need several doses to be fully protected, it’s recommended that you begin the vaccination programme well ahead of tick season.

You can search for healthcare centres near you through the 1177 service or the website Fästing.nu, or use a private company such as VaccinDirekt, which has both clinics and mobile tick buses, or SveaVaccin.

Swedish vocabulary

tick – (en) fästing

lyme disease – borrelia

tick remover – (en) fästingplockare

vaccine – (en) vaccin

dose – (en) dos

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

HEALTH

WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The World Health Organisation on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak, which has affected nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries, to be a global health emergency -- the highest alarm it can sound.

WHO warns 'high' risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

“I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.

He said a committee of experts who met on Thursday was unable to reach a consensus, so it fell on him to decide whether to trigger the highest alert possible.

“WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” he added.

Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on
July 20.

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

On June 23, the WHO convened an emergency committee (EC) of experts to decide if monkeypox constitutes a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) — the UN health agency’s highest alert level.

But a majority advised Tedros that the situation, at that point, had not met the threshold.

The second meeting was called on Thursday with case numbers rising further, where Tedros said he was worried.

“I need your advice in assessing the immediate and mid-term public health implications,” Tedros told the meeting, which lasted more than six hours.

A US health expert sounded a grim warning late on Friday.

“Since the last #monkeypox EC just weeks ago, we’ve seen an exponential rise in cases. It’s inevitable that cases will dramatically rise in the coming weeks & months. That’s why @DrTedros must sound the global alarm,” Lawrence Gostin, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, said on Twitter.

“A failure to act will have grave consequences for global health.”

And, on Saturday, he called for “a global action plan with ample funding”, saying there was “no time to lose”.

Warning against discrimination
A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.

Ninety-five percent of cases have been transmitted through sexual activity, according to a study of 528 people in 16 countries published in the New England Journal of Medicine — the largest research to date.

Overall, 98 percent of infected people were gay or bisexual men, and around a third were known to have visited sex-on-site venues, such as sex parties or saunas within the previous month.

“This transmission pattern represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge because in some countries, the communities affected face life-threatening discrimination,”
Tedros said earlier, citing concern that stigma and scapegoating could make the outbreak harder to track.

The European Union’s drug watchdog on Friday recommended for approval the use of Imvanex, a smallpox vaccine, to treat monkeypox.

Imvanex, developed by Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox.

It was also considered a potential vaccine for monkeypox because of the similarity between the monkeypox virus and the smallpox virus. 

The first symptoms of monkeypox are fever, headaches, muscle pain and back pain during the course of five days.

Rashes subsequently appear on the face, the palms of hands and soles of feet, followed by lesions, spots and finally scabs.

READ ALSO: WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

SHOW COMMENTS