Hazards in the forest
Ticks are very widespread in nature. They are also present on Medvednica – in forests and shrubs, by the meadows, hedges and forest trails. Ticks can easily attach to people if they walk through low bushes or shrubs. Ticks prefer clothes made of materials with small hairs (wool, flannel) because they can stick to it easily.
Apart from being unpleasant, the ticks that inhabit Medvednica can transmit two serious diseases to humans: viral tick-borne encephalitis and bacterial infection known as Lyme disease. Luckily, there are very few registered cases of these diseases and therefore few potentially dangerous ticks, but we must still keep this possibility in mind.
That is why it is recommended to choose wide trails, avoid walking through dense vegetation and wear smooth material clothing during their highest activity (May to July). It is necessary to check the whole body (especially in children) upon coming back from a trip to Medvednica and remove any ticks as soon as possible. The possibility of catching one of the aforementioned diseases is then minimal, because a tick takes several hours to transmit a disease.
It is best to try to daze the tick with alcohol (cover the tick with an alcohol infused cotton pad and keep it there for 3-5 min), then grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible with tweezers and then steadily and calmly pull it out. It is not recommended to put oil, nail polish etc. on the tick because that might stimulate convulsion and regurgitation of infective fluids into the wound.
It is not advisable to give up on trying to remove the tick and seek medical help the next day. In this case, it is necessary to at least remove the posterior part of the tick (body), because the mouthpart that may have stuck in the wound cannot have any effect on the emergence of the disease any longer. Later on it is possible to deal with removing the remaining mouthpart by oneself or at the doctor’s.
If a tick stays on the body longer, for example over night or for several days, it could, if it was infected, transmit the infection onto the human. In the first few days after getting infected it is possible to get the so-called passive immunological protection from the viral tick-borne encephalitis. You can get more advice and answers about the possibilities and need of such protection at the Epidemiological Service of the Croatian Institute of Public Health.
Lyme disease, which most frequently starts with noticeable skin redness at the bite spot, is successfully treated with antibiotics in early stages. That is why it is advisable to supervise the bite spot for about a month after the bite and contact a doctor if the redness appears.
Those who visit Medvednica often, and especially those who expose themselves to possible tick bites by walking through thick bushes, can get a vaccine for tick-borne encephalitis.
At the end it should be said that ticks should not be the reason to avoid trips to nature all together. With a little caution and attention, and possible immunological protection, trips to nature can be safe and beneficial to humans.