Health officials in Switzerland are reporting an increase in tick bites and tick borne diseases like Lyme disease through August this year.

Erythema migrans/James Gathany

To date, there have been 8,400 cases of acute Lyme disease. This compares with the 5,300 reported in 2015.

In addition, more than 100 cases of  tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) have been reported. This all comes after the Federal Office of Public Health in Switzerland reported seeing record number tick bites, the most in eight years.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks. Ticks become infected when they feed on birds or mammals that carry the bacterium in their blood. The disease can be found mainly in Europe, North America and temperate Asia.

Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. This rash occurs in approximately 60–80% of infected persons and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3–30 days. A distinctive feature of the rash is that it gradually expands peripherally over a period of several days.

If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Most cases of Borreliosis can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics.

No vaccine against Borreliosis is currently available, so tick awareness, appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas, and early removal of attached ticks remain the most important prevention measures.