Tick-borne encephalitis: Look out! Ticks!
Statistics alarm that 60% of patients after tick-borne encephalitis suffer from permanent neurological consequences, while 2% of Central-European tick-borne encephalitis cases end in death.
The most common source of this disease are ticks, small arachnids that feed on human blood and carry microorganisms that cause infection. It is also worth mentioning the second possible source of the disease:
- You can get infected with tick-borne encephalitis by eating unpasteurised dairy products or milk coming from infected animals from endemic areas. This type of infection is most often observed in Russia, where people get infected after drinking the milk of infected goats - explains Magdalena Kalinowska, Medicover Prevention and Medical Information Specialist.
Long-term consequences of tick-borne encephalitis
If, after a trip to the forest, you observe influenza-like symptoms in yourself or your child such as:
- joint pains,
- general weakness,
- general feeling of being unwell,
- disorders of the upper respiratory,
that appear within one to eight days, you should be aware of the fact that you might have been infected with tick-borne encephalitis. Realising that is all the more important since this phase is followed by an asymptomatic period of the illness that may last up to 20 days.
- After that time, you may suffer from the second stage of the illness related to the involvement of the central nervous system. The patients suffer from fever of up to 40°C, vomits, strong headaches and muscle pain. In the case of involvement of the brain, meninges or spinal cord, the patient may lose consciousness or have seizures, - says Magdalena Kalinowska.
The process of treating a diagnosed case of tick-borne encephalitis usually lasts many months and requires intensive rehabilitation. If untreated, tick-borne encephalitis can lead to permanent changes in the nervous system.
- These most often include paralysis or paresis, weakness, muscular atrophy and balance disorders related to cerebellum damage - adds Magdalena Kalinowska, Medicover Prevention and Medical Information Specialist.
How to protect yourself against tick-borne encephalitis?
Despite the fact that tick-borne encephalitis is one of the most serious diseases, it is the only tick-borne disease that you can protect against with the most efficient preventive method that exists, i.e. with vaccinations whose level of effectiveness exceeds 95%. It is worth getting interested in those vaccinations already in the winter months.
- It is most beneficial to administer the first and the second dose of the vaccine before the tick activity season in order to gain immunity. The doses should be separated by one to three months of interval. The third dose should be taken during the tick activity season or, at the latest, before the beginning of the next season - explains Magdalena Kalinowska.
It is worth knowing that you gain immunity to the disease already after two doses, but only taking the full three-dose cycle guarantees immunity for a period of three years. After that time, it is recommended to take a booster dose of the vaccine, and repeat it after another 3 to 5 years. The vaccine is administered in a traditional way.
- It is injected muscularly, most often into the arm or buttock. In exceptional cases, for example, in the case of patients with haemorrhagic diathesis, the vaccine can be administered subcutaneously - says Magdalena Kalinowska.
Who should take the vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis?
The vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis may be administered to children older than one year of age and to adults. Since children and adolescents represent 25% of those suffering from tick-borne encephalitis, it is worth vaccinating the youngest family members, particularly if they go to outdoor camps, courses or classes in the summer.
Just as in the case of other vaccinations, the only contraindication to their use is hypersensitivity to any active ingredient, excipient or substance used during the production process and present in trace amounts in the vaccine, or alternatively a heavy hypersensitivity to egg protein or other chicken proteins (which is an anaphylactic reaction after consuming an egg white).
You should refrain from being vaccinated if you are suffering from an acute infection with such symptoms as fever. In this case, postpone the vaccination until you are well.
The key in effective prevention of tick-borne encephalitis is to take broadly-conceived preventive measures.
- On the one hand, they consist in avoiding being bitten by ticks by using insect repellents and dressing properly while going to the forest.
- On the other hand, in removing the insects quickly and properly from the surface of the skin if they are observed there.
It is worth emphasising that, in some people, encephalitis may have gentle progression and give no visible symptoms. In those cases, the disease may be diagnosed only when it is already at an advanced stage. This is why it is worth following the recommendation contained in the Polish Preventive Vaccination Plan and adding the most effective form of protection, i.e. vaccination against Central European tick-borne encephalitis, to your preventive package.
The importance of tick-borne diseases in public health
The ScreamEcologic study of the risk of tick-borne encephalitis in Poland - presentation of the method