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About TBE

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) Overview

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a viral infection that affects the brain and spinal cord (encephalitis is inflammation of the brain).1 The virus is usually spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick, a blood-sucking parasite.1

Drinking unpasteurised milk and eating unpasteurised dairy products from infected animals, particularly goats, can expose you to the TBE virus. However, this is rare.1

The TBE virus isn't present in the UK, so there's no risk of infection within the UK. However, ticks in some countries within Europe and Asia are infected with the virus.1 To check which countries visit the Am I At Risk page.

Ticks are found in forests, woods, grasslands, riverside meadows, marshes, brushwood and scrublands. They can also be found in parks and gardens, so you don’t have to be in the countryside to get bitten.2 Ticks usually live in the undergrowth, where they can easily get onto people's clothes or skin.1 You can be bitten by an infected tick at any time of year, but tick activity is at its highest during the Spring and early Summer.1

Signs and symptoms of TBE

Around two in every three people infected with a tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus don't develop any symptoms.However, if symptoms do develop, they can be very serious.1

In most cases, the symptoms of TBE develop in two distinct stages.

First Stage: Between two and 28 days after being bitten by an infected tick:1

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • a headache
  • tiredness
  • muscle pain
  • feeling sick

These initial symptoms usually last for one to eight days, after which point most people will make a full recovery. However, after a period of up to three weeks without any symptoms, some people will go on to develop more serious problems.1

Second Stage: central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is affected:1

  • a sudden fever
  • nausea and vomiting
  • a stiff neck
  • a headache
  • changes in mental state, such as confusion, drowsiness, or disorientation
  • seizures (fits)
  • sensitivity to bright light (photophobia)
  • an inability to speak
  • personality and behavioural changes
  • paralysis (inability to move certain body parts)

If TBE reaches this stage, you'll need to be admitted to hospital.1 These symptoms usually slowly get better over a few weeks, but it may take several months or years to make a full recovery and more than one in 10 people develop long-term problems.1 Around one in every 100 people who develops symptoms of TBE will die as a result of the condition.1

Consequences of TBE

For the estimated one in 10 people that develop long-term or permanent complications their complications may include:1

  • memory problems
  • personality and behavioural changes
  • speech and language problems (aphasia)
  • epilepsy – a condition that affects the brain and causes regular seizures (fits)
  • changes in emotions, such as mood swings
  • problems with attention, concentration, planning and problem solving
  • movement problems
  • low mood
  • fatigue (extreme tiredness)

 

 

PP-VAC-GBR-0812 April 2018