The islands are leading the nation in tick-borne illness incidence for a second year in a row - around 50 cases of borreliosis, also known as Lyme disease, have been diagnosed on Saaremaa, ETV reported.
To gather information and build awareness about Lyme, often a complex syndrome of active phases and remissions, a student at Tartu Health Care College, Egle Niitvägi, is studying how many of the island's hunters carry the antibodies.
Antibodies are also carried for years by those who have been successfully treated, potentially skewing results, but with knowledge about the disease still fairly low, Estonian outdoorsmen may provide a valuable data set.
Ten years ago, there were 344 cases countrywide. Last year, the figure was 2,300.
Typically, many who contract the disease do not notice the initial telltale bull's-eye rash or are stoic about flu-like symptoms (if they get these symptoms at all - up to 30 percent of Lyme sufferers do not). Later the disease can progress to its secondary and tertiary stages, marked by arthritis and neurological symptoms.
Those symptoms can be far from clearcut, as one of the 184 who volunteered to participate said.
"It is the sort of disease that you can't understand whether or not it is in your body. But if my wife says I am lazy and fall asleep easily, then maybe I am sick," Andrus, a fit-looking 40-something, told ETV.
In about a week, the subjects will learn whether they carry the antibody and whether any symptoms they may have could be related to a past tick bite in this, the most Lyme-prone region of the country.