Spain monitoring bug that spreads two diseases over fears cases 'will increase'

The exterior of a Spanish hospital with people wearing face masks as they walked in and out
-Credit: (Image: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Spanish officials are monitoring the numbers of a certain bug over concerns of the rise of two serious diseases.

The holiday destination has launched a special study focusing on blood-sucking ticks that cause both Lyme disease and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF). The mites have been added to Spain's National Plan for Surveillance and Control of Vector-borne Diseases.

The bugs can transmit viruses, bacteria and protozoa like amoebas and sporozoans when they bite through human skin. Both diseases will be monitored in the new study, Wales Online reports.

Lucía García San Miguel, head of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), said of Lyme disease: “It is not an infection that is cured and that’s it, but over the months, manifestations can continue to appear and it can cause serious and disabling sequelae for life, but it is extremely difficult to diagnose because there are no adequate methods."

CCHF is a member of the Nairovirus genus within the Bunyaviridae family. It is endemic in many countries in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia.

It has a high fatality rate, ranging from 10% to 40 per cent, making early diagnosis and supportive care crucial for improving patient outcomes. There have been 15 cases in Spain in the last eight years. García San Miguel said: "We believe it will increase."

Lyme disease is mainly concentrated in the north of Spain, particularly Asturias and Galicia, but has also been found in the rest of the country. Cases of CCHF have been concentrated in Salamanca and Extremadura.

The number of tick bits in Spain has increased rapidly - including a six-fold increase in Valencia in the last five years.

Below are the stages and symptoms of Lyme disease and CCHF to know about.

Lyme disease symptoms

Macro close up of crawling parasitic Dermacentor reticulatus crawling on human skin. Also known as the ornate cow tick, ornate dog tick, meadow tick, and marsh tick.
Lyme disease is transmitted through tick bites -Credit:Getty Images

Lyme disease can cause a variety of symptoms, which are often categorized into early and late stages:

Stage one - early localized stage (3-30 days post-tick bite)

  • Erythema migrans (EM) : A red, expanding rash that often has a bull's-eye appearance. This rash occurs in about 70-80% of infected individuals.

  • Flu-like symptoms : Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

Stage two - early disseminated stage (days to weeks post-tick bite)

  • Additional rashes on other parts of the body.

  • Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face).

  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis.

  • Pain and swelling in the large joints.

  • Heart palpitations and dizziness due to Lyme carditis (affecting the heart).

Stage three - late disseminated stage (months to years post-tick bite)

  • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees.

  • Neurological issues such as numbness, tingling in the hands or feet, and problems with short-term memory.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) symptoms

CCHF symptoms typically progress through several stages:

Stage one - pre-hemorrhagic phase (1-7 days)

  • Sudden onset of fever.

  • Muscle aches, dizziness, neck pain, stiffness, backache, headache, sore eyes, and photophobia (sensitivity to light).

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and sore throat early on, followed by sharp mood swings and confusion.

Stage two - hemorrhagic phase (begins around the 4th day)

  • Severe bruising, nosebleeds, and uncontrolled bleeding at injection sites.

  • Bleeding can occur in the internal organs, gums, and skin.

  • Hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), jaundice, and rapid kidney deterioration.

Stage three - convalescent phase (recovery phase)

  • Begins about 10-20 days after the onset of illness if the patient survives.

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