The number of cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has been rising in recent years in Switzerland with 377 manifestations of the disease, a new record, registered in 2018 alone.
Since 2005, the average number of registered cases of TBE had been between 100 and 250 in Switzerland.
Vaccination against this complicated disease is strongly recommended for all "people who are exposed to ticks through open air activity, particularly in forests," states a communiqué by the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) on February 4th.
Vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis is particularly important given that no known treatment for the disease exists. Tick-borne encephalitis can lead to a degeneration of the nervous system and partial or full paralysis in the arms, legs and face for long periods.
The vaccination is recommended for local residents and visiting tourists in all cantons, except in the cantons of Ticino and Geneva, who spend a lot of time in open air areas where ticks thrive. Ticks live especially in grassy areas near forest edges, clearings, hedges or grasslands.
🗞️ Zeckenenzephalitis: Ausweitung der Risikogebiete mit Impfempfehlung— BAG – OFSP – UFSP (@BAG_OFSP_UFSP) February 4, 2019
🗞️ Encéphalite à tique: extension des zones à risque où la vaccination est recommandée
"For residents of the cantons of Geneva and Ticino, vaccination is also recommended as soon as they leave their canton and they expose themselves to ticks," says the Swiss government portal's statement.
Ticks can survive in areas of altitude up to 2,000 meters and live off the blood of animals. While they can be present at 2,000 meters above sea level, there have been no registered cases of tick-borne encephalitis in Switzerland in areas above 1,000 meters. Approximately one per cent of all ticks in Switzerland can carry tick-borne encephalitis, according to Swiss government data.
People are advised to get the three preventive vaccinations, which last for 10 years, in winter to ensure that they are protected from the months of April to October when ticks are most active.
While vaccination safeguards against the health risks of tick-borne encephalitis, the government urges nature lovers to take other precautions. Vaccines do not protect against borreliosis, more commonly known as Lyme disease, also caused by tick bites.
Long trousers and closed shoes are recommended gear to avoid tick bites. Clear clothes also help detect bites. The Federal Office of Public Health (OFPE) suggests walkers should inspect their bodies carefully for any bites after hiking or spending time in forests.
If you are stung by a tick, the tick fixed in the skin should be removed as soon as possible. Then disinfect the area and note the date of the sting. If in the days and weeks that follow symptoms such as fever, headache, redness or joint pain appear, a doctor should be consulted.