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First patient infected by tick-borne encephalitis virus

For the first time, a person in the Netherlands has fallen ill after a bite from a tick carrying the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBE virus). The infection was most probably caused by a tick bite sustained during a walk in Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park. The patient is now on the mend. Recently, the TBE virus was found in ticks in Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park. The virus occurs in various countries in Northern, Central and Eastern Europe, including Germany and Austria.

Tick-borne encephalitis

Although an infection by the TBE virus usually does not give any complaints, the virus may cause an inflammation of the meninges and brain (meningoencephalitis) preceded by flu-like symptoms. The virus is transmitted by tick bites. The disease is also known as FSME (Frühsommer-Meningoenzephalitis). If people fall ill, the disease usually has 2 stages. Seven to 14 days after the tick bite, patients suffer from a fever, headaches, fatigue and pain in muscles and joints. That phase is followed by an asymptomatic period of about 1 week. Few infected people develop encephalitis or meningitis, often with serious headaches and a high temperature. In that case, they need to be admitted to hospital. There is no treatment for encephalitis, meningitis and meningoencephalitis caused by the TBE virus. Usually, patients make a full recovery. RIVM advises medical specialists to bear in mind tick-borne encephalitis when they see a patient who is suffering from encephalitis, meningitis or meningoencephalitis and recently bitten by a tick.

Prevent tick bites

The TBE virus is transmitted by tick bites. Therefore, it is important to prevent tick bites, to check oneself regularly for bites and to remove ticks from the skin instantly.

TBE virus in ticks

RIVM has examined deer for the presence of antibodies against the TBE virus. Few deer tested positive, in particular in Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park. Subsequently, ticks were  caught in that area, and TBE virus was found in a number of them. Recently, an infected tick was discovered after a walk in Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park. RIVM investigates, in collaboration with other organisations, the spread of the TBE virus in the Netherlands and the risk of infection.

 

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