"Punkit ovat sosiaalisia ja viehättäviä, sanoo ruotsalainen Rolf Gustafson. Punkit ovat eläneet maapallolla pitkään. Ne ovat aterioineet jo dinosauruksissa.
Ruotsalaiset suuntaavat kesäisin lomamatkansa saaristoon, mutta siellä piilee vaara -punkit. Ruotsalaiset sairastuvat puutiaisaivokuumeeseen muita maita useammin. Pahinta on että punkit ovat pieniä eikä niiden purema satu. Siksi purema jää usein huomaamatta. Puutiaisaivokuumetta vastaan on olemassa rokote.
Puutiaisaivokuumetta huomattavasti suurempi riski on sairastua borrelia-bakteerin aiheuttamaan Borrelioosiin. Bakteeria löydetään noin joka kolmannesta punkista. Arvioiden mukaan vähintään 10 000 ruotsalaista sairastuu Borrelioosiin vuosittain. Tautia ei voi ennaltaehkäistä rokotteella.
Itsehoitomenetelminä ihmiset käyttävät erilaisia punkkikarkotteita, puutereita, rasvoja ja syömällä runsaasti valkosipulia. Punkeilla ei ole juurikaan vihollisia mutta suurin osa, jopa 99%, kuolee oleillessaan liian kuumassa tai kuivassa paikassa.
Swedes Use Garlic, Boat-Clinic as Island Bugs Spoil Vacations
Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Swedish vacationers heading for the country's thousands of coastal islands this summer are threatened with something worse than sunburn: Bugs.
A record number of Swedes may be infected by encephalitis and other potentially fatal diseases by the country's billions of ticks, whose number is increasing because of milder winters. Sweden had the highest rate of tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE, in Western Europe last year. The illness affected about one in every 20,000 residents, according to Eurosurveillance data. One in every 1,000 patients dies from the illness, according to doctors.
``They're disgusting and can be so dangerous,'' said Sara Strindlund, 27, who spends summer in her family's cottage on an island in Stockholm's archipelago, and won't lie in the grass because of the bugs. ``The worst is that they are tiny and don't hurt, so I won't notice them until they've fed on my blood.''
Ticks are found across Sweden's eastern coastline and the country's 220,000 islands, the top holiday destination for Sweden's nine million people, who use traditional deterrents including garlic and sprays to ward off the insects. Demand for vaccinations also means doctors are using new ways to reach patients, including a tick clinic that's based on a boat.
``Considering that TBE causes lasting damage in 40 percent of infected adults, there's a way to go,'' said General Practitioner Ola Stroemstedt, a co-founder and skipper of an Arcona 460 sailing boat christened Medica. ``We decided to take the vaccine out to the islands where the Swedes spend their holidays so they can get their booster in time.''
Smittskyddsinstitutet, the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, based near Stockholm, recorded 184 cases of TBE last year compared with between 50 and 100 cases in the 1990s. There have already been 90 cases in Stockholm this year, according to Bo Svenungsson, a doctor at Smittskyddsenheten, the infectious disease unit for Stockholm.
A third of ticks in Sweden also carry bacteria that cause Lyme disease, which as many as 10,000 people get every year in Sweden. The disease is treatable with antibiotics such as doxycycline, Roche Holding AG's Rocephin or GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Ceftin. It can't be prevented with a vaccine.
Lyme disease can cause a red rash and fever. Some patients suffer from inflammation of the brain and nerves, which may lead to facial paralysis or personality changes. It's rarely fatal. TBE causes fever and nausea. In 30 percent of TBE infections the virus spreads to the brain. One in five never recover totally and 1 percent die, according to health authorities.
Stroemstedt, who has toured the islands for six years, gives 500 TBE shots a day and extended this year's trip to meet demand.
``We have been selling more TBE vaccines this year and there's plenty of ticks around because their numbers are soaring after two mild winters,'' said Rolf Gustafson, medical director at Baxter International Inc., in a phone interview. ``The cold makes them think it's winter.'' Baxter is the world's biggest maker of blood-disease products.
``We've already been using a larger sailing boat this year and there's also a motorboat, '' said Stroemstedt, sitting on his boat in the Gustavsberg harbor. ``We stand outside a supermarket and people get their shot as part of a shopping trip.''
In addition to vaccination, many people cover themselves in anti-tick sprays, powders, roll-ons and creams and eat large amounts of garlic, in a bid to put off the blind blood-sucking parasites, which are active in Sweden from March until November.
Ticks like warm and slightly moist undergrowth, bushes and meadows with long grass. Though they have few predators, 99 percent die because they sit in the wrong place or because of high temperatures or low humidity. Ticks suck blood from deer, birds, dogs or humans. In searching for a host, the tick displays a behavior referred to as ``questing.''
``Ticks are cute and very sociable,'' said Gustafson. ``Ticks have been around for a hundred million years. They're so old, they used to feed from dinosaur blood.''
In Europe, tick-born encephalitis is primarily found in Sweden, Germany, Austria, the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe, according to the World Health Organization.
A case of TBE costs Sweden as much as 500,000 kronor ($63,000). A TBE shot, which isn't reimbursed by the state, costs 250 kronor, said Gustafson, a 52-year-old who works for Baxter in Sweden. Baxter, which is based in Deerfield, Illinois, controls 85 percent of the TBE vaccine market in Sweden.