The number of cases of tick borne encephalitis has risen sharply in recent weeks, according to data published by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
124 cases were recorded over the last four weeks, a figure 110% higher than the 59 cases recorded over the same period last year. Tick borne encephalitis (TBE), a virus, is a reportable disease, which means doctors must report cases to the authorities. So far this year, 215 cases have been reported. The tick season lasts from March until November.
TBE symptoms include fever, achiness, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Swelling of the brain and spinal cord, confusion, and sensory disturbances occur in 20% to 30% of people. 1% of those infected die from the infection.
There is no treatment for tick borne encephalitis, however there is an effective vaccine which comprises of three shots. The second shot is taken 30 days after the first, and the third 9 to 12 months later. Since early 2019 the TBE vaccine has been covered by basic Swiss health insurance.
Lyme borreliosis, another more common tick borne disease is a bacterial infection. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against it. It must be detected and treated with antibiotics. Left untreated it can sometimes have serious health effects. In the first half of 2020, an estimated 19,600 people visited their doctor for a tick related condition. Around 7,600 cases were acute Lyme, according to FOPH.
The FOPH provides maps of encephalitis hotspots. Lyme disease is nearly everywhere except at high altitude.
Ticks are carried by animals. In Switzerland, when they’re not on a host they live on the ground. To get from the ground to their hosts they typically cling to grass, bushes and other plant material and jump when close.
Avoiding long grass and wearing long pants tucked into socks is the best defence. The more covered you are the better. Spraying insect repellent on to your pants, socks, shoes and other clothing helps too.
Checking your body when home is important. If you find any ticks be sure to remove them carefully with special tweezers. It is important to grip them close to your skin and avoid squeezing them.
Animals must be checked too. Dogs are easily infected by these diseases and suffer similar symptoms to humans.