Expats in the Netherlands warned about ticks and Lyme disease

Published:  27 Jun at 6 PM
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As the Netherlands becomes ever more popular with expat professionals, there’s one unfamiliar danger they need to watch out for.

Given the challenges of moving to a new country, expats arriving in the Netherlands could well be forgiven for not knowing about a serious threat to their health which could easily result in totally wrecking their expat experience – ticks! A combination of the country’s rural habitat, an increase in the number of animals hosting the horrid little insects and the warmer than normal Dutch springtime has caused a huge increase in the tick population. Expats arriving from the mostly tick-free UK might not even be aware of ticks as a serious risk to their health.

Ticks can carry Lyme disease although not all are infected, with around 27,000 people diagnosed every year and the numbers growing as the planet hots up. The long list of symptoms includes fever, muscle and joint pain, a rash, arthritis-like painful swelling of joints, drooping of the face caused by damage to muscle tone, palpitations and inflammation of the spinal cord and brain. In rare cases, it can prove fatal.

Ticks become active when temperatures exceed just 5 degrees Celsius and are normally found in gardens, tall grass and under or in bushes. They easily transfer themselves to passing humans, dogs and other small mammals and once they’re attached they suck blood until they’re full. Just before they drop off, they transfer blood containing the Lyme disease bacterium to the host. Favourite locations for tick on humans are the groin, armpits, between the butt cheeks, on the back of the knees and behind the ears, but the miniscule horrors can attach themselves anywhere.

Once they’ve been found and carefully removed, the bite site needs to be monitored for around three months for signs of Lyme disease, the most common being a ‘bull’s eye’ rash surrounding the site of the bite. Contacting a doctor is essential if you think you’ve been bitten. According to the Dutch public health institute, some 500,000 people will be bitten this June and July, a record number for the country. Since the start of 2018, there’s been a 29 per cent increase in reported tick bites.
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