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Tick-Borne Infections and Illnesses

Over the past 30 years, the occurrence of tick-borne diseases has increased significantly. Different species of ticks populate the world, and many of them carry agents for diseases. In Europe, there are mainly two types of tick-borne diseases: tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease.
Not only you, but also your pets could be affected by ticks.

The most common tick-transmitted infections – tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme disease – show somewhat similar signs in the first stage. They are both accompanied by flu-like symptoms. However, TBE is a viral infection, whereas Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. The latter is a lot more common, with around 50.000 reported infections per year in Germany alone. Both illnesses can cause serious long-term complications and are not to be taken lightly.

Tick-Borne Encephalitis

In its first stage, TBE infections cause flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue, aching limbs, and fever. They start between one or two weeks after an infectious tick-bite. About 25% of all patients infected with tick-borne encephalitis show more serious symptoms during a second stage after another four weeks. High fever and severe drowsiness can be a sign of inflammation of the brain or of the spinal cord. This may cause long-term complications and permanent damage. For about 10% of those showing symptoms during the second stage, the infection is fatal. Once you are infected, the virus itself cannot be countered efficiently. Medication is not capable of destroying the virus, and at this stage, only the symptoms can be treated. The spread of the virus can be slowed down with antiviral drugs, though.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease may cause a wide range of symptoms and is sometimes hard to diagnose. Its symptoms can be very similar to those of a TBE infection, but they include arthritic pain and swollen joints (especially painfully swollen knees). A giveaway sign of Lyme disease is a red, ring-shaped rash around the bite. Even if you do have any other symptoms, you should go to a doctor now. Lyme disease can be efficiently treated with antibiotics. The earlier you begin treatment, the better.

If the disease goes unnoticed, the bacteria can affect the nervous system at a later stage. This causes a variety of neurological symptoms, such as local paralysis, speech impediments, or even mood swings. Whereas Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, TBE cannot. Vice versa, there is no vaccination against Lyme disease.

Vaccination against Tick-Borne Encephalitis

Vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis is possible; it is strongly recommended for people who are regularly exposed to infection risks in infested areas. If you plan more than the occasional daytrip in an infested area, you may want to consider a TBE vaccination.

A variety of vaccines is available in Europe. Full immunization can be achieved after three doses within three weeks. For long-term immunization, three initial doses are administered over the course of 9 to 12 months; they need to be refreshed every three to five years. Immunization for children is possible as well.


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