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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Tick-borne Encephalitis

Introduction

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is transmitted to humans by a bite from an infected ixodes tick. Less commonly the disease can be spread through drinking unpasteurised milk from infected animals, especially goats. The disease is maintained in the wild by birds, deer, rodents and sheep.

TBE is found in the far eastern part of the former USSR and extending across into China. It is found in European Russia, Austria, Hungary, the Balkans, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Scandinavia where, it is mainly a disease of the forest. TBE occurs from late spring until early autumn and outbreaks often follow a period when voles are numerous.

Most human infections are contracted during outdoor leisure pursuits such as forestry working, camping, rambling and mountain biking, during tick season (spring to early autumn).

The Illness

TBE produces clinical features similar to those of many other types of meningitis and/or encephalitis.

The disease may be restricted to the meninges (the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord), which usually leads to full recovery, but it may also affect the brain, the upper portions of the spinal cord and even the nerve roots. Severe disease can cause permanent neurological damage and some patients require long term rehabilitation. About 1 in 100 patients will die from TBE.

Treatment

No specific treatment is available for TBE.

Recommendations for Travellers

Bite avoidance must be emphasised to all travellers e.g.protecting the skin with clothing, tucking long trousers into socks, insect repellents and keeping to designated pathways.

Travellers should consider being vaccinated against TBE if they are risk of tick bites when working walking or camping in endemic areas. The vaccine available in the UK is called TicoVac and TicoVac Junior for children.

  • Patient Information Leaflet (PIL) for TicoVac┬ánot available.

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