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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Tick-borne Encephalitis

Introduction

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infection that can affect the central nervous system/brain and is transmitted to humans by a bite from an infected tick. Less commonly the disease can be spread through drinking unpasteurised milk from infected animals, especially goats.

TBE is found in parts of Europe (east, central and north), Russia, China, Japan and South Korea. TBE occurs from late spring until early autumn and is found mainly in rural/forested areas where ticks are common.

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

Most infections cause no symptoms. When symptoms do develop fever and a flu-like illness is followed by 2 -10 days of no symptoms, before inflammation of the central nervous system occurs with fever, headache and signs of meningitis and/or brain inflammation. Severe disease can cause permanent neurological damage including behavioural/mood changes and reduced concentration. About 1 in 100 patients will die from TBE.

Treatment

No specific treatment is available for TBE.

Recommendations for Travellers

  • All travellers planning to spend long periods of time in forested/rural areas of countries with TBE should be aware of how to avoid tick bites.

The most effective way to prevent TBE is through vaccination; this should be considered if you will be spending long periods of time in forested/rural areas of countries with TBE e.g. you are travelling to go hiking, camping, orienteering, walking, running, cycling etc.

The vaccine available in the UK is called TicoVac and TicoVac Junior for children. A vaccination course consists of 3 doses of vaccine, at least 2 doses of which are required before travel.

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