A report published recently the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) shows a sharp increase tularemia cases, a disease spread primarily by ticks.
From 2010 to 2016, an average of 31 cases of infection were recorded annually. In 2017, the number jumped to 129, a four-fold increase. 129 cases is 1.5 per 100,000.
Most were infected by ticks.
The steepest rise was among those over 65 from 7 cases to 29. Twice as many men (84) were infected as women (45) in 2017.
Rates of infection varied by canton. Those with infection rates above the average of 1.5 per 100,000 included: Aargau (2.3), Bern (1.9), Fribourg (2.6), Luzern (2.0), St. Gallen (3.4), Solothurn (3.0), Vaud (1.4) and Zurich (1.7).
Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, is caused by bacteria and leads to fever, skin ulcers, and enlarged lymph nodes. Sometimes it can cause pneumonia or a throat infection. There is no vaccine, however it can be effectively treatment with antibiotics. In Switzerland, the fatality rate among those not treated is 1%.
In addition to tick bites, infection is possible from contact with infected animals, consuming contaminated water or breathing in contaminated dust.
The disease is named after Tulare County, California, where it was discovered in 1911.
Advice on avoiding the disease is the same as other tick borne diseases: avoid getting bitten.
Avoiding long grass and wearing long pants tucked into socks is the best defense. The more covered you are the better. Spraying insect repellent on to your pants, socks, shoes and other clothing helps too.
The report offers no information on the drivers behind the rise in numbers infected.