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French authorities warn against ticks

Health authorities issue alert as summer approaches - prompting an explosion in the tick population

As tick season heads into full swing in France, officials are warning the public to be on the alert for the tiny pests, whose bite can cause Lyme disease and other illnesses.

The Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire issued a call for vigilance, with ticks at their most prevalent from this month until October.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include joint or muscle pain, facial paralysis, tiredness and even heart problems - and can appear several months after the tick bite itself.

It offers the following advice:

  • Wear skin-covering clothes and closed shoes when walking to avoid being bitten
  • Use an mosquito or insect repellent on uncovered skin (but watch out for any that could be dangerous to pregnant women or young children)
  • Check your clothes and body, and those of your children, especially in areas of skin creases or reduced visibility, such as knees, elbows, genital area, and head hair
  • Pharmacies sell an instrument for safely picking ticks off clothes and skin (known in French as a tire-tics), and you should only use that (or tweezers, if you must, but never your bare hands or fingers) to remove any you see
  • Using the tire-tic, pull the insect firmly but gently away from the skin, so as not to break open the insect’s head near to your body
  • If you think you may have been bitten, or do get bitten, consult a doctor
  • Tick bites often leave a distinctive, red circular mark from 3 to 15cm wide, around the bite anywhere from two day to one month afterwards, but in some cases this does not appear
  • Remember to tell your doctor about your walk in the forest should any symptoms appear in the next few months
  • A doctor will be able to prescribe antibiotics should Lyme disease be suspected

Meanwhile, the Institut national de la recherche agronomique has launched a study involving 100 people who have been bitten to learn more about the illnesses other than Lyme disease that are spread by ticks.

A smartphone app was launched last July, allowing members of the public track the spread of ticks. To date, more than 5,000 reports have been registered on the Signalement TIQUES (tick alert) app.

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