|"Even though TBE has already been described in 1931,|
this dangerous form of encephalitis has been
underestimated for a long time."
(C. Kunz, MD, co-inventor of the first
Western-European TBE vaccine, Vienna)
TBE (tick-borne encephalitis) is a viral disease transmitted by ticks that attacks the nervous system and can cause both mild and severe illnesses, with permanent consequences such as concentration problems, paralysis and depression. Approximately every 100th case results in the death of the affected person.
The Ixodes ricinus tick (common castor-bean tick) is prevalent across Europe. TBE endemic areas traverse Europe: from Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Switzerland and Austria, across Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland and Scandinavia (Sweden, Finland) to the Baltic States and Russia (and Siberia). Ticks live in forest clearings and meadows.
|"TBE is endemic in regions of 27 European countries and|
every year we detect new risk areas." (J. Süss, PhD, Jena)
TBE virus is common in endemic foci in
|Denmark (Bornholm Island)||Estonia||Finland (SW Coast)|
Not every tick transmits the dangerous TBE virus, but the rate of infestation in some high-risk areas can be great. In certain areas, one can find ticks at altitudes of up to 1,800 metres above sea level; infections of the TBE virus have been reported at altitudes of 1,300 metres.
Where do ticks hide?
Many still believe that ticks fall from trees. They, in fact, live in the soil and don't climb much higher than 20 to 70 centimetres onto grasses and bushes in their search for a blood host (people, animals). Therefore, we generally brush ticks off vegetation when we pass through grasses or by bushes along forest paths, or when we walk on lawns and in the garden. Ticks have temperature-geared olfactory senses that detect "prey". Many infected people cannot remember ever being bitten because of the small size of the ticks.
The first clinical and epidemiological observations about the spread of TBE in Europe are attributed to Dr. Johann Schneider, at the beginning of the 1920s. In 1956, he succeeded in isolating the virus and describing the course of the disease in detail. Due to the recurring seasonal incidence of ticks from April to July, this disease was called "spring-summer meningoencephalitis" (Frühsommer-Meningoencephalitis in German, or FSME), more commonly termed "tick-borne encephalitis" (TBE).
Based on numerous scientific works and findings concerning TBE, Dr. Christian Kunz from the Institute of Virology at the University of Vienna developed a vaccine, which was administered for the first time in the 1970s.
Lyme borreliosis is another tick-borne disease of even higher epidemiological dimensions than TBE. It is caused by Borrelia bacteria and can be managed with administration of antibiotics, whereas no effective therapy exists against TBE.