Ticks move higher, and farther north

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Norwegian researchers have documented that ticks, often linked to serious diseases, have been found as far north as Lofoten and at much higher elevations than previously recorded. Summer hikers are being warned to wear long trousers and check themselves for tick bites after a day in the great outdoors.

Ticks have now been documented as far north as Lofoten, and at elevations of nearly 600 meters. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

Norway was long believed to be spared from ticks, called flått in Norwegian. Long a problem in neighbouring Sweden and elsewhere in Europe, it’s only been in recent years that tick bites became more prevalent on residents of southern coastal areas in Norway, not least after some of them became ill with mysterious ailments eventually tied to borellia infections.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that ticks have now been found 400 kilometers north of where they previously were believed to be contained, and at elevations up to 583 meters above sea level. The findings of researchers at Norway’s veterinary institute have been published in the online magazine Parasites & Vectors, and show that ticks were confirmed as far as 69 degrees north, as far north as the scenic and popular Lofoten archipelago.

Researcher Solveig Jore told Aftenposten that documentation of ticks in Norway hadn’t been carried out since 1983. “There had been a lot of speculation that ticks had spread,” Jore told Aftenposten, adding that they now are common in many inland communities as well as along the coast.

They remain most prevalent along the southern coast of Norway (Sørlandet), from Porsgrunn beyond Mandal and up towards Egersund. Certain island communities north of Bergen also have large concentrations as do parts of Nordmøre and Brønnøysund, as documented in 1983.

Now they’ve moved even farther north, into Nordland County and up to the border of Troms, possibly because of rising average temperatures in the areas. Researchers believe the findings are important, because they show that both people and animals can be more exposed and vulnerable to tick bites and diseases ticks can carry.

Hikers and outdoors enthusiasts are warned that they’re most vulnerable to tick bites while in grassy and heavily vegetated areas, especially where there are many deer. Ticks live off the blood of rodents, deer and other wildlife.

Experts recommend using light-colored clothing, to more easily see ticks, and keeping legs and ankles covered. Ticks seem to especially like areas where skin is thin, such as behind knees, around ankles and even behind ears. They should be removed immediate with tweezers, and bite areas monitored. If a circle appears around a bite, tests for borrelia infection are advised.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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