Tick bite hospitalisations double in 10 years

Queensland tick bite cases double since 2008


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The eastern paralysis tick (left) alongside the kangaroo tick (right). CREDIT: Microbiology Australia.

The eastern paralysis tick (left) alongside the kangaroo tick (right). CREDIT: Microbiology Australia.

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Last year 129 people were admitted to hospital in Queensland with tick bite symptoms

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The number of people who are being hospitalised with tick bite symptoms in Queensland is on the rise. 

Statistics from the office of state Health Minister Dr Steven Miles showed tick bite hospitalisations had more than doubled in the ten years since 2008. 

In 2008 just 59 patients were admitted to hospital in Queensland after coming into contact with a venomous tick. 

This number increased to 129 in 2017-18, according to data provided by the Health Minister in response to a question on notice in the state parliament. 

A recent research paper out of the University of Queensland has sought to identify and characterise the habitats and habits of different ticks in Australia.

Lead by Professor Stephen Barker and Dayana Barker and published in the journal Microbiology Australia, the paper explained that, out of the 71 ticks found in the country, only two were "notorious" for biting humans. 

These were the eastern paralysis tick, found on Australia's east coast, and the kangaroo tick, found in some parts of outback Queensland and Western Australia. 

While the kangaroo tick could carry disease-causing bacteria, the eastern paralysis tick had an incredibly potent venom. 

"The toxins of this tick seem to be the most potent of all tick-toxins with at least 20 fatalities," the report read.

"Thankfully, deaths from the bite of [the eastern paralysis tick] are now rare due to the advent of intensive care-units in regional hospitals and expert medical treatment."

Knowing what ticks lived where was a crucial part of combating tick-borne disease, Professor Barker said. 

"We are trying to figure out why the distributions are so distinct," Professor Barker said.

"Perhaps a farmer was bitten and feels unwell, then if we know the location that's a key part of identifying the tick, and then what bit them."

LNP agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said the spike in tick hospitalisations was “very concerning”.

"It is essential that all Queenslanders take the threat of ticks seriously, especially farmers.

"While not all ticks are a threat to humans, more work is clearly needed in managing tick populations and their impacts.”

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