The baby's mother, Maria Merra, said she was surprised that the tiny black dot behind her 10-month-old’s ear turned out to be a tick--tiny, blood-sucking creatures common in Finnish coastal regions and increasingly inland too.
“But once I managed to remove it and it walked away, I knew it was a tick,” said Merra, who lives in Espoo. The baby had not been frolicking in the grass on that day, but had been sitting in a pram.
Jussi Sane from Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) says nymphs can be very difficult to detect on skin.
Ticks go through four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. While microscopic in size, arachnids of all sizes can spread dangerous diseases. That said, a tick discovery doesn’t automatically mean an infection has occurred.
”It’s far more likely that one hasn’t contracted anything,” Sane says.
Those who have been bit should seek a medical attention if they start experiencing flu-like symptoms or if a rash appears around the bite, sometimes shaped like a bulls-eye. Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by the parasites, and it’s especially prevalent in Finnish coastal areas. Ticks also carry a viral infectious disease known as tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE.
While ‘tick vaccinations’ are marketed in the lead-up to summer, Sane says they don't protect against all tick-borne illnesses.
“The vaccine doesn’t ward off bites or Lyme disease -- it’s recommended for areas with a high prevalence of tick-borne encephalitis.”
Instead, he recommends long-sleeved clothing and insect repellents containing DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) to avoid bites by the bloodthirsty bugs.