Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is an infection spread by tick bites. Ticks that spread it are found in parts of Europe and Asia, and some parts of the UK.
Ticks live in forests and grassy areas. You’re more at risk of being bitten if you do activities such as hiking and camping. Ticks survive by biting into an animals or humans – and sucking blood. These bites can infect you with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Not all ticks spread TBE. The risk of becoming seriously ill is low.
How to avoid tick bites
Always try to avoid being bitten in places where ticks are found.
In order to reduce the risk of being bitten:
- cover your skin while walking outdoors and tuck your trousers into your socks
- use insect repellent on your clothes and skin – products containing DEET are best
- stick to paths whenever possible
- wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to spot and brush off
How to remove ticks
- Use a fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool
- Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible
- Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick. Dispose of the tick when you have removed it.
- Clean the wound with antiseptic or soap and water
The symptoms below are an early indication of infection.
- flu-like symptoms
- feeling hot and shivery
- aching muscles or
- feeling sick
- a circular red rash
If you are infected with TBE and do not experience any symptoms, or only experience mild first-stage symptoms, you will usually get better without treatment. Paracetamol can be taken to relieve any flu-like symptoms. link
For severe symptoms of TBE there is no specific drug treatment. Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, may be considered under specific circumstances for symptomatic relief. link You may need to go to hospital to be given supportive treatments such as intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care to support your body while you recover.
If you develop encephalitis, you will probably be admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), where doctors will aim to:
- stop and reverse the process of infection using medication
- control any complications, such as seizures or dehydration
- prevent long-term complications such as memory loss or epilepsy
Consider taking the TBE vaccine if you are planning on visiting a country where the infection is common and you intend to do outdoor activities when you get there. (currently not available in the USA).
Two injections of the vaccine can protect you for about a year. A third injection can protect you for about 3 years. You need to have the first injection at least 1 month before travelling.