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HEALTH

Ticks in Norway: Do I need to take a vaccine? 

The summer months in Norway mark tick season, where thousands of people are bitten each year. Although most people are usually fine, tick bites come with the risk of Lyme disease. Here's what you need to know about the tick vaccine. 

A tick in Norway.
Very few people in Norway are recommended to take a tick vaccine. Pictured is a tick. Photo by Erik Karits on Unsplash

The summer months in Norway mark tick season, where thousands of people are bitten each year. Although most people are usually fine, tick bites come with the risk of Lyme disease. Here’s what you need to know about the tick vaccine. 

Ticks, or flått, in Norway can be found mainly in the southeast and along coastal areas in the west, and as far north as Bodø. However, ticks can also be found further inland. 

They can be found in forests, meadows, and long grass, meaning the biggest risk is when you’re out in nature – especially hiking, camping, or berry-picking.

Ticks are active when the temperature is higher than around 5c, but are most common during summer. Tick season is roughly from April to September in Norway, with most bites occurring in summer.

The two main tick-borne diseases in Norway are Lyme disease and Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Lyme disease (also called borreliosis) causes no symptoms in around half of all people who catch it. For others, it can cause skin redness, headaches, and pain and can attack the nervous system.

Around 25 percent of all ticks in Southern Norway are carriers infected with the Borrelia bacteria, according to The Norwegian National Advisory Unit on Tick-borne Diseases.

TBE is a viral brain infection, which can cause a range of symptoms, usually starting with typical flu-like symptoms and then developing to include nausea, dizziness, and in around a third of cases, severe problems. Symptoms usually appear around a week after the bite but can take longer. There is no cure, but it can be treated, and there is a vaccination too.

While ticks are found across Norway, ticks carrying TBE, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, are mostly concentrated in Rogaland, Vestfold and Telemark, Adger and Viken. Around one percent of ticks in Norway carry TBE. 

Who should get a vaccine? 

Vaccinations are recommended for those living in areas with TBE-infested ticks and/or who spend a lot of time in forests. More specifically, the vaccine should be considered for children and adults in west-Agder, east-Agder, Telemark, Vestfold and Buskerud.

You get three doses within the first year, each one increasing the level of protection, another amount after three years and then will need top-ups every five years, every three years if you are over 60.

Because you need several doses to be fully protected, it’s recommended that you begin the vaccination programme well ahead of tick season. It’s also worth noting that you should receive the third dose before the next tick season starts if you receive your jabs mid-tick season. 

However, the incidence rate of TBE in Norway is low, meaning that in most cases, you won’t need to take a tick vaccine and can instead focus on preventative measures. 

If you are spending time in wooded areas with long grass, especially those with a high tick presence, take precautions like wearing long-sleeved clothing and tucking trousers into socks. Also, avoid brushing against long grasses by walking along the middle of the path where you can.

After returning home from a day out, you should check carefully for ticks and shower shortly after coming inside. This can give you the chance to remove them before they bite, for example, if you spot them on your clothes. Putting clothes in a tumble dryer for one hour should kill ticks.

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HEALTH

GP shortage in Norway much larger than previous estimates indicate

The number of those in Norway without a GP is much higher than previous estimates from the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggest, according to a new survey among doctors.

GP shortage in Norway much larger than previous estimates indicate

As many as 235,000 in Norway lack a GP, a number far higher than previous estimates from the Norwegian Directorate of Health, according to a report from broadcaster TV2

Previous figures from the Norwegian Directorate of Health had the number of those without a doctor at around 175,000. 

“The GP crisis is now completely out of control. Today, every 24th citizen in Norway lacks a GP,” Nils Kristian Klev, head of the Association for General Practitioners, told TV2

The figures reported by TV2 come from a survey carried out by the GP association that more than 75 percent of general practitioners in the country responded to.

In a previous survey run by The Local, foreign residents in Norway highlighted that trouble getting an appointment or not being assigned a GP was one of their biggest criticisms of the Norwegian healthcare system, which they rated favourably overall. 

READ MORE: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

“The GP crisis is very real, and therefore the government has promised that we will come up with powerful measures in the 2023 budget,” Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol said of the survey’s results to TV2. 

Norway’s government announced an expert committee review into the current GP system to tackle a ‘crisis’ within the current model in August.

The objective of the expert committee will be to provide specific recommendations on how the GP system can be improved so that all residents have a permanent GP, in addition to finding a sustainable model, the government said in August. 

One flaw with the current system in the eyes of the medical association is the high number of people on GP’s patient lists. 

“The GPs must have fewer patients on their lists in order for there to be livable working conditions. It will also lead to fewer doctors wanting to quit and more newly qualified doctors wanting to work as GPs,” Klev said. 

To cut down the number of patients on GP’s lists, Klev says the government would need to stump around 2.3 billion kroner to try and recruit around 1,000 new GPs. 

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