Mutant ticks – Russia

A new mutant blood-sucking tick has been discovered in Russia amid a surge in tick bite victims, according to official government papers. In one region of Siberia, there are reportedly 428 times more ticks than usual.

Scientists have now reportedly discovered a mutant form of the arachnid, which is said to have the worst qualities of 2 common forms of ticks found in Russia.

The news has also sparked growing fears that hospitals in sparsely populated Siberia are running out of vaccines and medications for the types of diseases which ticks can inflict on the humans they bite. These include tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease. Tick-borne encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, is estimated to have killed more than 150 000 in 2015.

The scale of the tick population has left some hospitals, already stretched with rising numbers of coronavirus deaths and infections, without vaccines and medications.

Photo: Ixodus ricinus tick.

In the Krasnoyarsk region, in central Russia, medics report 8215 tick bite cases, including 2125 involving children.

The suburbs of Krasnoyarsk city are infested with 214 ticks per square km (0.38 sq miles), compared with the safe figure of 0.5.

Almost 2 percent carry tick-borne viral encephalitis virus, which can lead to permanent brain damage, with a 3rd capable of passing on tick-borne borreliosis, or Lyme disease, attacking the joints, heart, and nervous system, reports the region’s Epidemiology and Hygiene Center.

A large number of inter-species hybrids have invaded Novosibirsk and Tomsk regions. The mild winter is seen as a key reason for the rise in tick numbers. The mutant tick is capable of carrying infectious agents associated with both parent species. Novosibirsk has seen a 150 per cent jump in people seeking medical help after suffering bites from abnormally active ticks.

22 people who have been hospitalized are suspected of having encephalitis.

In Sverdlovsk region in the Urals, 17 242 people have been bitten by ticks, among them 4 334 children, with 36 per cent suspected to have Lyme disease.

The rise in figures come despite Russians, until recently, being under lock-down over coronavirus. Many cities say they have no stocks of immunoglobulin to treat sufferers, or only enough for children. Khabarovsk region says it is has run out of immunoglobulin and encephalitis vaccine. New supplies are only expected in July 2020, with people urged to stay home. In Kemerovo region, SG from Prokopyevsk urgently needed an injection of immunoglobulin but could not find supplies in the city. This should be injected no more than 4 days after the bite.

People in the region are recommended to seek medical attention when bitten by a tick.

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