Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a previously little-known viral infection that is on the increase. Up to 12,000 cases are reported each year in endemic areas, but it is thought this number is under-reported. The disease causes a severe and untreatable illness: flu-like symptoms, leading to fever, headache, inflammation of the heart, pancreas, brain and spinal cord, followed by death, paralysis or permanent neurological damage in about 10% of cases.
How it is spread:
The main reservoir for the virus is in wild vertebrate animals such as rodents.
TBE can be transmitted in two ways:-
- Ingestion unpasteurized milk or milk products from infected animals
- Bite of an infected Ioxedes tick
- Ticks feed by embedding their mouth-parts under the skin, and can remain attached for several hours. Tick bites are generally painless, and 40% of disease victims have no recollection of receiving a tickbite. Traveller’s who take part in outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, hill-walking and even jogging, are at risk, and children playing outside may be especially vulnerable
Where does TBE occur?
- The highest transmission rates of TBE mainly occurs during the summer months, between June and September, but transmission can occur as early as March and as late as December
There are 3 main geographical regions that TBE occur
- European – Western Europe including Austria, Southern Germany, Switzerland, Eastern Sweden, Southern Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary Poland Romania and Croatia
- Siberian Ural mountains., Siberia, far-Eastern Russia
- Far Eastern– Far Eastern Russia, China and Japan
Tick-Borne Encephalitis Vaccination
There is a vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis (Ticovac and Ticovac Junior) which is highly effective against TBE. The primary schedule requires two vaccinations to be given 14 days apart, and a third dose to be given one year later. A booster vaccination is recommended after 3 years. The vaccination is suitable for adults and children over the age of one year-old.
What else can I do to protect myself?
- Prevent tick bites by wearing long trousers and sleeves
- Chemical prevention to prevent tick-bites by impregnating clothing with permethrin and using insect repellents such as DEET. The Fleet Street Clinic stocks a range of products.
- Check your body for ticks, especially in the armpits, ground and behind the knees
- Remove ticks promptly and correctly and clean the bite with antiseptic