If you hike or spend time exploring the Vienna woods and parks, you might have seen signs warning against ticks (Zecken in German). Around Central Europe, there are increasing amounts of ticks that can cause tick-born encephalitis (TBE), a viral disease transmitted by the bite of an infected tick (i.e. not every tick transmits the disease).
TBE is a serious infection that attacks the central nervous system and can cause long-term neurological symptoms. There are more than 10,000 TBE cases reported in Europe each year.
Ticks are most active from March through November, with greatest activity in spring and summer. They live in soil and climb as high as 70cm (28″) on grass and bushes to look for their hosts (animal and human). They usually attach themselves to hair-covered portions of the head, behind ears, elbow, backs of knees, and to hands and feet.
There is no known treatment for TBE and the only way TBE infection can be successfully prevented is through vaccination. One effective vaccination recommended for Austria is manufactured by the Canadian corporation Baxter (the vaccination is called FSME-IMMUN).
Other measures for general tick bite prevention:
- avoid tick-infested areas when possible (read the warning signs!)
- wear light-colored long-sleeved clothing, tight at wrists and ankles, and shoes that cover the entire foot
- apply DEET to skin and permethrin to clothing
- check skin and clothes regularly for ticks
For more information
- Check out the CDC, WHO, and an Austrian site for more information.
- TBEFacts.com provides information on Baxter’s vaccine
Thanks to the Medical unit at the U.S. Embassy for help with this post.