Massive increase in TBE infections from ticks

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New map of TBE risk areas published

More and more people get tick-borne early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE). The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has outlined the TBE risk areas in its current "Epidemiological Bulletin" and has pointed out the health risk from tick bites.

"In 2011, a total of 423 TBE diseases were transmitted that met the reference definition of the RKI", which corresponded to "a significant increase compared to the previous year (260 TBE diseases) by 63 percent", reports the RKI in the Epidemiological Bulletin. The massive increase in the number of cases was mainly limited to Baden-Württemberg (47.5 percent of TBE infections overall) and Bavaria (45.1 percent of TBE infections). Regions in other federal states are also identified as TBE risk areas on the current map of the RKI.

140 districts are TBE risk areas According to the definition of the RKI, FSME endemic areas are declared as "TBE risk areas" if "there is a risk of illness for persons exposed to ticks, which experts agree justifies preventive measures." This is the case for cases with more than given a TBE disease per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the statement in the epidemiological bulletin of the RKI. In total, according to the definition of the RKI, "140 districts are currently classified as TBE risk areas": 43 districts in Baden-Württemberg, 79 districts in Bavaria, nine districts in Hesse, seven districts in Thuringia, one district in Rhineland-Palatinate and one district in Saarland. Compared to the previous stand, three districts have been added: the Ulm district in Baden-Württemberg, the Kempten district in Bavaria and the Saar-Pfalz district in the Saarland. The “increase in TBE risk areas in recent years has occurred almost exclusively within the southern German areas described; the LK Saar-Pfalz-Kreis is an exception here, ”the RKI commented on the development.

TBE risk not only in the risk areas So far no TBE risk areas have been identified in the other federal states, but this does not mean that tick bites are harmless here. Because even in states like Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania or Schleswig-Holstein, the tiny bloodsuckers can trigger dangerous meningitis. In addition, it is “likely that the TBE virus continues to persist latently in natural herds in the eastern states, where it was endemic between the 1960s and early 1980s,” reports the RKI. If the symptoms are appropriate, FSME should always be considered and an appropriate medical history and diagnosis should be made, according to the statement in the Epidemiological Bulletin. The typical symptoms of TBE are flu-like complaints such as fever, headache and body aches, which resolve relatively quickly after the first occurrence, but then return afterwards. In the later course of the disease, massive headaches, nausea and vomiting as well as disorders of consciousness and motor skills can be observed.

Risk of Lyme Disease In addition to the TBE risk, if there is a tick bite, there is basically the risk of a Lyme infection throughout Germany, which does not represent a comparable acute health risk as TBE, but can also be a considerable health burden for those affected. While TBE is caused by viruses and an appropriate vaccination is possible, Lyme disease is based on a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics, but against which vaccination protection cannot be built up.

Protection from TBE In the TBE risk areas, according to the epidemiological bulletin of the RKI, the risk of developing a disease is so high that "according to a risk-benefit assessment, routine TBE vaccination of residents or tourists exposed to ticks makes sense." Vaccination commission (STIKO) recommends a TBE vaccination for people who are exposed to ticks in the defined risk areas. Here there is also an obligation for reimbursement of vaccination costs from the health insurance companies. To ensure vaccination protection, however, the vaccination must be refreshed every three to five years. Precautionary protection in other ways enables the wearing of appropriate clothing when staying outdoors. Long sleeves, long pants with tight cuffs and sturdy shoes offer a relatively efficient way of repelling ticks, which protects against TBE as well as against Lyme disease. In addition, after the excursion into nature, the body should be thoroughly searched for ticks and adhering animals removed as soon as possible with tweezers or tick pliers in order to minimize the risk of transmission of pathogens. (fp)

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