Tickborne Encephalitis

What is Tickborne Encephalitis?

Tickborne encephalitis (TBE) is caused by three virus sub-types; it is a viral infection of the central nervous system transmitted by tick bites.

Human infections follow bites of infected ticks, usually in people who visit or work in forests or fields. Infection also can be acquired by consuming unpasteurised dairy products from infected cows, goats or sheep. 

Where is it found?

Tickborne encephalitis occurs in Scandinavia, western and central Europe, and countries that made up the former Soviet Union. Risk of acquiring the disease is greatest from April to November, when the principal tick vector is most active. Countries in which TBE caused by the European or Western tick-borne encephalitis virus and Siberian tick-borne encephalitis viruses are common include: Austria, Estonia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Slovenia. Less frequently it occurs in Bulgaria, Romania, Denmark, France, the Aland archipelago and neighbouring Finnish coastline, and along the coastline of southern Sweden, from Uppsala to Karlshamn. Relatively few cases have been reported from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegonia, Albania, Greece, Italy, Norway and Turkey.

The third viral sub-type, Far eastern Tick-borne encephalitis virus occurs in China, Korea, Japan and eastern areas of Russia. The severity of disease, incidence of complications and resulting death rates are higher in the far-east and eastern regions of Russia than in western and central Europe. More on TBE from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.

Risk to travellers

Travelvax advises that the risk to travellers who do not visit forested areas or consume unpasteurised dairy products is low. However, for travellers anticipating extensive unprotected outdoor, evening and/or night-time exposure in rural areas (such as bicycling & camping) or engaging in certain occupational activities, the risk may be significant, even during a brief trip. Consumption of unpasteurised dairy products should be avoided.

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