Dit blog is gepubliceerd op 19 november 2019 en geactualiseerd op 22 juni 2023
Most outdoor enthusiasts are all too aware of the danger posed by ticks.
The widespread attention to Lyme disease means that more and more people know about the symptoms, treatment and prevention of a tick bite. What far fewer people know is that ticks can also transmit another disease: namely tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE, a disease caused by the TBE virus. Do you enjoy camping, hiking, gardening or other outdoor activities? In this blog, you’ll learn how to recognize, treat and, of course, prevent TBE.
What is tick-borne encephalitis?
Tick-borne encephalitis is meningitis or encephalitis caused by the TBE virus. This virus is transmitted by infected ticks. Before 2016, this virus was almost exclusively found abroad, but since then the virus has also been found in ticks in the Netherlands. It is therefore important when informing people about ticks to talk not only about Lyme disease but also about tick-borne encephalitis.
What happens when you have a TBE infection?
There are different subtypes of the virus, but the symptoms are generally similar. Usually, infection with the TBE virus does not cause any problems. In many cases, a person does not get sick. However, when someone does get sick and the infection progresses to tick-borne encephalitis, you can distinguish two phases.
The first phase begins 7-14 days after the tick bite. During this phase, a person may experience headaches, muscle aches, fever and nausea. However, one-third of infected people do not notice this phase. This phase lasts 2-7 days and is often followed by a week without symptoms.
During the second phase, two types of inflammation may develop: inflammation of the brain tissue (encephalitis) and/or of the meninges (meningitis). During this stage, symptoms such as severe headache or fever occur and hospitalization is necessary. There are currently no medications to treat tick-borne encephalitis.
How do I prevent infection with the TBE virus?
In the case of tick-borne encephalitis, it is easier to take preventive measures against a tick bite than to treat the disease when an infection occurs. By taking preventive measures before you put yourself in a high-risk situation, you significantly reduce the chances of a tick bite. You are at increased risk of a tick bite when:
- It is spring or summer
- You go to forests or grassy areas
- You undertake an outdoor activity such as camping, biking or hiking
- You are outside for long periods of time for other reasons
Areas in Europe where ticks may carry the TBE virus include Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and part of Scandinavia. In these areas, as well as in the Netherlands and other countries where ticks are present, it is wise to take preventive measures. Wear long sleeves, long pants and tuck your pant legs into your socks. Use insect repellent with DEET and check yourself and others for ticks afterwards.
Remove ticks with tick forceps, clean the skin with alcohol and keep a close eye on the affected skin for the next few days. The TBE virus is transmitted almost immediately after the bite, but quick removal seems to reduce the chance of infection. In addition, removing the tick reduces the chance of contracting another disease, such as Lyme disease.
Vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis
Vaccinatiecentrum.nl offers a vaccine that provides up to 95% protection against TBE. This vaccine protects against each of the three subtypes of TBE. A tick-borne encephalitis vaccination is especially recommended if you plan to spend an extended period of time in an area where TBE is prevalent.
The vaccine against TBE consists of a series of three vaccinations. Before departure, two vaccinations are given one month apart. After 6-12 months, or before the start of the next tick season, a booster vaccination is given. After this, you are protected against tick-borne encephalitis for three years.
If you are going to a country where tick-borne encephalitis is prevalent or if you plan to spend a lot of time in nature, feel free to make an appointment at vaccinatiecentrum.nl for a personalized health consultation.