Vaccination is the best protection, says Huber, as ticks become active again in spring

Tick-borne encephalitis or TBE is caused by a virus spread by bites from ticks which are infected with the virus. Second to Lyme's Disease, TBE is one of the most common tick-borne infectious diseases. Dr. Marcel Huber, Bavarian State Minister of the Environment and Public Health, together with Dr. Nikolaus Frühwein, President of the Bavarian Society of Immunology and Tropical Medicine Association, are calling for people to get immunised against the virus. 'Vaccination is the best protection against TBE. This applies to both children and adults,' says Huber.

TBE disease can have serious health risks. Affected people often develop a flu-like illness that lasts about a week. This may then progress to encephalitis (brain inflammation) or meningitis (inflammation of the tissues around the brain) which can cause headache, fever, confusion, agitation, vomiting and can lead to a coma or even death. Huber goes on to explain that the disease can be severe, especially in older patients. The vaccination is highly effective. 'Our goal is to increase the uptake of vaccination in Bavaria. Doctors should recommend the Vaccination consistently,' says Frühwein.

Most of TBE cases occur in southern Germany. So far this year, there are still no confirmed cases of TBE in Bavaria. In 2011, the number of reported cases was 177, significantly higher than in the previous year, when there were 104 cases. According to data from the Association for Consumer Research, the number of vaccinations against TBE since 2005 has increased significantly; from about 17 to about 34 percent. This increase is even more visible in children. An analysis of the data for school entrance examinations by the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety recorded that some 48 percent of children have been fully immunized against TBE in the region. "The number of infected cases demonstrate that there are still too few people fully immunized, and this is number likely to increase" asserts Huber. Given the high prevalence of TBE, vaccination against it falls under the officially recommended vaccinations in the state, and the costs are covered by health insurance funds.

The TBE risk areas have expanded continuously since 2001. Recently, 78 of the 96 Bavarian districts and urban districts were classified as TBE risk areas. Only parts of Swabia and the western parts of Upper Bavaria are considered to be free of TBE.

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