Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral infection spread to humans by the bite of a type of parasite known as a tick.
A tick resembles a small black or dark brown spider. Unpasteurised milk from infected animals, especially goats, is a less common source of the infection. Affected people often develop a flu-like illness that lasts about a week. This may progress to encephalitis (brain inflammation) or meningitis (inflammation of tissues around the brain) which can cause headache, fever, confusion, agitation, and vomiting, and can lead to a coma or even, less commonly, death. There are three forms of the disease related to the virus subtypes – namely, European, Far Eastern and Siberian. The Tick-borne Encephalitis vaccination is vital to preventing any possible infection.
Initial symptoms of TBE are similar to flu and include:
fever (temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above) headache tiredness muscle pain
In around 1 in 3 cases, initial symptoms are then followed by additional symptoms. These symptoms are caused by the virus spreading to the layer of protective tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and /or the brain itself (encephalitis). In some case these ‘second-stage’ symptoms can be relatively mild, such as:
feeling sick being sick increased sensitivity to bright lights
While in others the second-stage symptoms can be more wide-ranging, such as:
seizures difficulty speaking difficulty controlling movements
Ticks that carry the disease are mainly found in forested areas of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe, including Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Russia and Ukraine. The disease is endemic across much of Central and Eastern Europe and the incidence rate is increasing, with numbers estimated to be as many as 8,755 cases per year. The Far Eastern type is endemic in areas of China and Japan
TBE is a seasonal disease as different seasons of the year have a significant impact on tick activity. In Europe, tick activity starts in spring once the temperature reaches 6C (42.8F) and lasts until November when temperatures fall. Tick activity peaks in May/June and September/October, but in fact most cases occur during summer months as this is when people are most likely to spend time outdoors.
Unpasteurised milk should be avoided in areas at risk. Wear long-sleeved tops and long trousers that cover your legs entirely. It is also advisable to treat your clothes with insecticides such as Permethrin. Apply insect repellent containing DEET to any exposed areas of skin. Check your body for ticks regularly. Common places to find them are the hair line, behind the ears, elbows, backs of knees, the groin and armpits.
The inactivated tick-borne Encephalitis Vaccination is available in the UK for the protection of those individuals at high risk of exposure to the virus, through travel or employment. Please book an appointment to ensure you are safe on your travels