Hyalomma ticks are up to two centimeters long, have eyes and actively pursue potential victims. The animals are still rare in Germany – but the situation is different in southern European holiday destinations.

An immigrant giant tick has settled in the Italian province of Trieste, which is popular with holidaymakers. The species Hyalomma marginatum is now found in considerable numbers in the Trieste Karst, according to the Trieste City Museum of Natural History. Global warming has shortened winters in recent years, which has probably enabled Hyalomma populations to settle. The east of the province is particularly affected.

The tick, which is widespread in parts of Asia and Africa, has striped legs and, at up to two centimeters, is significantly larger than the most well-known tick species in Germany, the common dog tick (Ixodes ricinus). Unlike the latter, it has eyes and actively moves towards its prey – over many meters.

The rocky Trieste Karst offers a favorable environment for the giant tick, as the Trieste Museum explained: It does not live in tall, damp grasses, but inhabits sunny, open areas with short grasses and stones – typical of the karst landscape.

However, the establishment of Hyalomma in Trieste is not surprising from an Italian perspective: when asked, the health authority Istituto Superiore di Sanità said that Hyalomma marginatum is a species that is already widespread in Italy.

This is also shown by an overview from the European Health Authority ECDC from last August: The tick is also found in large parts of Portugal, Spain, southern France, Croatia and Greece. However, in many places there is a lack of data on the occurrence of the species.

Ticks of the two species Hyalomma marginatum and Hyalomma rufipes have also been found regularly in Germany for years – they probably mostly reach the north from warm and dry areas of the south on migratory birds. “However, we do not currently assume that there are already established populations of these tick species living permanently in Germany,” Alexander Lindau from the University of Hohenheim told the German Press Agency.

However, further rising temperatures and lower humidity could contribute to the emergence of a Hyalomma population in this country in the long term, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Hyalomma ticks can transmit diseases such as Crimean-Congo fever and tick-borne typhus. According to analyses by the University of Hohenheim, almost every second Hyalomma tick found in Germany carries the tick-borne typhus pathogen. However, according to Lindau, only one suspected case has been recorded so far, from 2019, in which a man from North Rhine-Westphalia probably contracted tick-borne typhus after being bitten by a Hyalomma tick.

Recently, a man in Spain became infected with Crimean-Congo fever. The disease is characterized by flu-like symptoms, such as chills, fever, muscle, neck and limb pain.

A typical symptom of the infection, which is caused by certain bacteria called rickettsia, is a skin rash that gave the disease its name. A tick carrying the pathogen that causes Crimean-Congo fever, which can be accompanied by potentially fatal bleeding, has not yet been found in Germany.

A total of 27 Hyalomma species have been described, said Lindau. Hyalomma marginatum is particularly widespread in the southern Mediterranean region, while Hyalomma rufipes is particularly common in the dry regions of Africa south of the Sahara and in the Red Sea region. “There are also some occurrences in Egypt and Tunisia.”

According to the expert, Germany may be facing a very strong tick year. There is currently a very high tick activity on drier and warmer days. “We therefore assume that this will continue throughout the year.”

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