What Is Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

Tick-borne encephalitis, also known as TBE, is a rare infection of the central nervous system that affects the brain, spinal cord and membranes around them.1 Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain and can be caused by a number of different infections.2,3

People develop TBE if they have been bitten by a tick that is infected with the TBE virus.2

To check whether a country you are intending to visit is a TBE risk country, it is recommended you explore the TBE risk map and consider preventative measures before you travel.

Ticks can bite during outdoor activity

Not all tick bites are the same - TBE vs Lyme disease

Both TBE and Lyme disease are transmitted to people by an infected tick*. The bites are usually painless 4,5 but the reaction to the infected bite is different for each disease. 5,6,7

Transmission

TBE can be transmitted to people immediately by a single bite from an infected tick,4 but the transmission of Lyme disease usually requires ticks to be attached to the human body for 36-48 hours.8

Symptoms

With TBE, the majority of people infected have no early symptoms,6 or in some cases, may confuse symptoms of headache or muscle pain with that of mild flu.7 With Lyme disease, an early circular red skin rash with a clear central zone forms around the tick bite around 3 to 30 days after being bitten.5,9

Find out more about the symptoms of TBE.

Type of infection

TBE is a viral infection, transmitted by a tick infected with a virus belonging to a group of viruses known as flaviviruses.6 Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, transmitted by a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi.5

TBE is a virus and so cannot be treated with antibiotics. There is no specific treatment for TBE.2

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection and can be treated with antibiotics.10

Geographical location

Although both TBE and Lyme disease are transmitted by infected ticks, they have different geographical spreads.7,8 To check whether a country you are intending to visit is a TBE risk country, it is recommended you explore the TBE risk map and consider preventative measures before you travel.

* It is also possible, but uncommon, to contract TBE by consuming unpasteurised infected milk or milk products.2

TBE prevention for work and travel

Prevention

You can reduce your risk of developing TBE by taking precautions to avoid being bitten by an infected tick when in high risk areas. This includes using effective insect repellents, wearing light coloured clothing and checking your body regularly for ticks.​​​​​​​7

Vaccination against TBE is recommended to anyone who may be at risk of TBE through work or travel, particularly those planning to visit rural areas or perform outdoor activities, such as walking, hiking, cycling, or camping.2,4 According to the World Health Organization, vaccination is considered the most effective prevention measure for TBE.11

If you are travelling to an affected country, or are planning a holiday in the near future, learn about how to help protect yourself from TBE infection.

Find out How To Protect Yourself

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for TBE, only supportive measures to help manage the symptoms. These supportive measures can only help relieve or manage the symptoms while you wait for your immune system to fight off the virus.12,13