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HEALTH

Work ciggie break ban idea hits opposition

Calls for cigarette breaks at work to be banned in Germany have raised the hackles of workers - and led one MP to say it was a “step towards a non-smoking dictatorship”.

Work ciggie break ban idea hits opposition
Photo: DPA

Two major German employers’ lobby groups called on Friday for workers to be banned from smoking cigarettes during work hours, saying it harmed productivity and cost firms money.

Mario Ohoven, president of the BVMW association of German medium-sized firms, told the Bild daily: “We’ve got to put an end to lighting up during work hours.

“Cigarette breaks cost firms money and disrupt the flow of the working day,” added Ohoven, in an appeal that made the front page of Germany’s most-read newspaper.

Another entrepreneur, Ursula Frerichs, from the UMW association of mid-sized businesses, said: “Additional breaks for smokers should be banned.Non-smokers should not be put at a disadvantage.”

But the call ran into immediate opposition.

Such an initiative “would hardly contribute to a good atmosphere in companies,” said Martina Perreng from the DGB trade union federation.

Karl Lauterbach, a Bundestag member with the centre-left Social Democratic Party, said, “A ban on smoking in short breaks outside the front door would be a massive discrimination – and a step towards a non-smoking dictatorship.”

This was even though, he told Bild, “I am in favour for strict non-smoker protection in the workplace.”

Around a quarter of Germans are smokers – about average for the European Union according to Eurostat figures – and the tobacco lobby has a strong influence in the country.

The last of Germany’s 16 states made lighting up in bars and restaurants largely illegal in public places from July 2008, but the law was riddled with loopholes and many bar owners circumvent it.

Bundestag members from across the political spectrum said in May that they were working to introduce uniform anti-smoking laws that would close the loopholes and be applicable nationally.

AFP/The Local/mdm

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HEALTH

Ticks in Germany: How to avoid them and what to do if you get bitten

A recent increase in diseases related to the eight-legged bloodsuckers in Germany suggests that ticks are on the rise. We break drown what to look out for and what to do if you get bitten.

Ticks in Germany: How to avoid them and what to do if you get bitten

What are ticks?

Ticks are tiny, spider-like creatures that are usually between 1mm to 1cm in size. They generally live in long grass, bushes and wooded areas.

These little arachnids don’t fly or jump but climb onto animals or humans as they brush past. They are parasites, and once a tick bites into the skin, it feeds on blood for a few days before dropping off. 

Are they dangerous?

During this unpleasant bloodsucking transaction, ticks can transmit diseases to humans which can become dangerous. 

The disease which is mostly associated with ticks is Early Summer Meningoencephalitis (TBE) which, in severe cases, can cause permanent damage such as paralysis, or even death. Thanks to the mild winter and increasingly warm temperatures, this disease is on the rise this year in Germany.

READ ALSO: How climate change is threatening Germany’s forests

The other main disease associated with ticks is Lyme disease which, in the most severe cases, can attack the nervous system, joints, and organs. 

What are the symptoms?

Those who develop Lyme disease can get flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. Children might lose their appetite, lack energy, or complain of stomach ache.

But the most obvious sign of Lyme disease is a red circular rash around the bite.

A woman walks her dog through a patch of long grass. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/HUK-COBURG | Hagen Lehmann

However, if you remove the tick in less than twelve hours, you usually have nothing to worry about, as it takes a while for the infection to be passed onto humans. 

The situation is different with TBE, however, as the disease is transmitted much faster. But, thankfully, it is also much rarer: according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only 0.1 to 5 percent of ticks in risk areas carry TBE viruses.

Most people infected with TBE don’t have any symptoms, while one in three initially suffers from flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and aching limbs. In rare cases, the spinal cord can be affected, with symptoms such as severe headaches and neck pain, nausea, and impaired consciousness.

In the majority of patients, the disease heals completely, but in an average of one percent of cases, it can be fatal. 

Luckily, there is a vaccination against TBE, which is recommended for those regularly visiting high-risk areas.

Where am I most likely to get bitten?

Ticks can be found all over Germany – even in city parks. However, TBE infections occur more frequently in so-called TBE risk areas, and the RKI has an updated map of these areas

These are found in large parts of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and parts of southern Hesse, Saxony, and Thuringia, but there are also isolated risk areas in central Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland. 

In February, the number of TBE risk areas was expanded by the RKI to include five new TBE risk areas in Bavaria, Saxony and Lower Saxony, so that there are now a total of 161 affected districts.

What should I do if I get bitten by a tick?

Firstly, it is unlikely that you will even feel the tick bite, which is why it’s important to check yourself carefully when returning from a trip to the countryside or a risk area. 

Ticks tend to bite around thin areas of the skin such as kneecaps, groin, armpits, and hairline. In children, they can often be found on the scalp and behind the ears.

Using tweezers is a good way to pull a tick out of the skin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-central picture | Patrick Pleul

If you do find a tick, you should remove it quickly with a special tick remover (available at all pharmacies), tweezers, or your fingernails. The sooner you can do this, the lower the risk the tick will be able to infect you.

The important thing is to make sure you remove the whole tick, by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling slowly. Then wash and clean the bite, and contact a doctor if you’re worried.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

One thing you shouldn’t do is to put oily liquids on the tick, as this could enrage it and cause it to release saliva potentially containing harmful pathogens.

How can I prevent a tick bite?

If you’ll be spending time in wooded areas, long grass, or known risk areas, you should wear long-sleeved tops and full-legged trousers and tuck trousers into socks. Children should also wear a hat, as ticks can climb to their height in bushes.

In short: have as little skin exposed as possible. 

It’s also sensible to wear light-coloured clothing so you can easily spot a tick if one bites you.

Useful vocabulary

tick = (die) Zecke = tick

tick bite = (der) Zeckenbiss

tweezers = (die) Pinzette

tick pliers = (die) Zeckenzange

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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