What is Tick Borne Encephalitis?
Tick Borne Encephalitis is a viral disease spread via the bite of an infected Ixodes tick. It can also be transmitted via unpasturised milk from infected goats or cows. Ticks bite humans when they walk through undergrowth or grasses where contact is made. Peak biting times are during the warmer months of August, or following a warm humid summer in September and October. After an incubation period of 2-28 days, symptoms begin with a fever and can progress at varying degrees. Death rates are highest in the elderly.
Who is at risk of Tick Borne Encephalitis?
Tick Borne Encephalitis is a risk for travellers going to endemic areas; that is: areas where infection exists at low rates. It is most prevalent in Europe and Asia in long grass and undergrowth, at a tick infection rate of 5%. A variation of Tick Borne Encephalitis occurs in Russia and China.
How can I prevent Tick Borne Encephalitis?
While a vaccination is available for those at high risk, travellers should try to avoid areas where the disease is prevalent. If it is essential to go walking in long grass or undergrowth, suitable clothing should cover arms and legs, with trousers tucked into socks for protection. DEET can also be used as a repellent. Those trekking can impregnate cloth with permethrin to use as a ground sheet to sit on in infected areas.
If a tick gets onto the skin, it should be removed using the correct technique of pulling it straight from the skin using tweezers or a similar instrument, not twisting.
Note: This information is designed to complement and not replace the relationship that exists with your existing family doctor or travel health professional. Please discuss your travel health requirements with your regular family doctor or practice nurse.