TBE Risk on the Rise: RKI Updates Germany's Tick Danger Zones

Sun 28th Apr, 2024

Image by Jerzy Gorecki from PixabayThe Robert Koch Institute (RKI) issues updates annually regarding areas in Germany at risk of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) infection. Notably, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, along with regions in southern Hesse, Saxony, southeastern Thuringia, and southeastern Brandenburg, pose significant TBE risks. In 2024, the RKI identified the city district of Frankfurt (Oder) in eastern Brandenburg and the Altenburger Land district in southern Thuringia as new risk areas.

The proliferation of ticks in Germany has led to an increase in reported TBE infections, resulting in the expansion of risk areas to 180 between 2002 and 2023. The RKI's map illustrates the prevalence of TBE infections, particularly in southern federal states. Additionally, exotic tick species are becoming more prevalent in Hesse, heightening the risk of infections with dangerous diseases for both humans and animals.

Officials from the Hessian health department confirmed the increasing spread of meadow ticks and sheep ticks in the region, capable of transmitting pathogens such as the Q fever pathogen. Q fever typically manifests with symptoms like high fever, chills, and severe headaches, though symptoms often remain mild. Furthermore, the presence of the Hyalomma tick, an exotic species capable of transmitting diseases like tick-borne spotted fever and the Crimean-Congo virus, has been sporadically observed in Hesse.

The most common tick-borne diseases in Germany include Lyme disease and TBE. In TBE cases, viruses transmitted through tick bites can infect the bloodstream, leading to symptoms like flu-like illness. While most individuals remain asymptomatic, some may experience a second attack affecting the central nervous system, potentially causing severe, permanent damage.

Vaccination is recommended for individuals residing, working, or spending time in TBE risk areas to mitigate the risk of tick bites. Notably, the RKI reported in 2023 that 99 percent of TBE cases occurred in individuals either unvaccinated or inadequately vaccinated against the disease. Basic immunization requires three vaccinations, with booster shots recommended every three to five years according to the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko).

Image by Jerzy Gorecki from Pixabay


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