Call for more vaccinations after record year for tick infections

Call for more vaccinations after record year for tick infections
Tick-born encephalitis is fatal in around one percent of cases. File photo: Depositphotos
Swiss authorities are set to widen the net for vaccinations against tick-borne encephalitis after a record year for infections.

A total of 334 have been affected by the dangerous early summer meningo-encephalitis (ESME) virus this year – a new record and 30 percent more than all of 2017.

While only a small number of ticks carry the virus (also known as tick-borne encephalitis), a bite from one of the insects can have serious consequences for your health.

The initial stage of the disease, which comes around one to two weeks after the bite, includes flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever, tiredness and aching muscles.

In five to 15 percent of cases, however, a second stage of the disease includes meningitis symptoms that can last for months.

Overall, some 80 percent of people infected require hospitalization, while around one percent of cases are fatal.

The risk of being bitten by a tick carrying ESME varies depending on what part of Switzerland you are in.

Now, Swiss health authorities want to widen the net on vaccinations to prevent 2019 being another record year for viral infections from ticks, according to national weekly NZZ am Sonntag.

Currently, vaccination, which is highly effective and available to adults and to children from the age of 6 up, is recommended only in localised areas where risk of infection is high. The process requires three injections with a booster shot after 10 years. The cost is covered by health insurers.

But federal and cantonal authorities, as well as the national vaccination commission, are now looking at possibly recommending vaccinations for entire cantons or even for the whole country, NZZ am Sonntag reported.

The vaccination rate is too low, a health ministry spokesperson told the paper.

Full details of the new proposals are set to appear in winter.

Swiss health authorities say you can help protect yourself against ticks by wearing tightly woven clothes and avoiding brush and low-lying vegetation.

You should also use repellent for skin and insecticide for clothing and check your body and clothing for ticks after spending time outdoors.

For more information (in English) on how to check for ticks, see here.