Tick alert: Are you aware of the dangers of TBE?
This article about tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and how to avoid it is sponsored by Pfizer.
Many people who spend time in the great outdoors in the summer months already know about ticks and Lyme disease. But did you know that in some areas of Europe and Asia, the wee beasties are also carriers of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)?1
TBE is a nasty viral infection of the central nervous system that can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis.1,2
How is TBE transmitted?
TBE is spread by the bite of infected ticks.3 But ticks are very small and can be difficult to see. Their saliva also contains a natural anaesthetic so many people do not realise they have been bitten at the time.3
Where and when to look out for ticks with TBE
The good news is that TBE is not found in the UK, but it does occur in many popular holiday destinations in Europe and Asia. 3
They tend to live in forested or grassy areas and in European countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Poland, Croatia, Sweden, Finland and Russia.1,2
Early spring to late autumn are the riskiest times to be bitten and anyone who enjoys walking and camping should take care to avoid being infected. 2
What are the symptoms of TBE?
TBE can appear in phases, initially presenting with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, tiredness, muscle pain and nausea.
Symptoms usually develop between two days and four weeks after being bitten by an infected tick.2
Thankfully, most people with TBE recover fully but up to one third will suffer long-term complications including paralysis and convulsions, and in some severe cases the condition can lead to death.1
How to protect against TBE
Unlike Lyme disease, there is no specific treatment for TBE. The best advice is to reduce your chances of being bitten by a tick in the first place.
If you plan to spend time outdoors in risky areas:
- Wear long-sleeved tops and long trousers tucked into socks
- Regularly check for ticks and remove any you find as quickly as possible
- Use insect repellent on your skin and clothes.
Another solution is to be vaccinated against the infection. Vaccination against TBE is recommended for anyone planning to travel to risky areas.1,3 Speak to your healthcare professional about how you can help protect yourself against TBE.
See Tick Alert for more information and advice.
1 WHO Regional Office for Europe & European Centre for Disease. Tick-borne encephalitis in Europe. Available at: https://ecdc.europa. eu/sites/portal/files/media/en/healthtopics/vectors/world-health-day-2014/Documents/factsheet-tick-borne-encephalitis.pdf Last accessed: March 2018.
2 NaTHNaC. Tick-borne encephalitis.
3 NHS Choices. Tick-borne encephalitis.
Photos have been provided by Shutterstock via TBE UK.