By Line Chokor
Tick-borne encephalitis. Sounds scary, right? Let’s shorten it to TBE, then. TBE is a disease that causes inflammation of the brain and cerebral membranes. Humans contract the virus primarily through the bite of a disease-infected tick – a parasitic arachnid. Another way to catch the disease is through the consumption of raw milk products. Austria does not have a lot of deadly animals, but this tick is one of them! The Zecken cause a lot of trouble amongst humans and animals in the country. Contraction of the virus occurs especially from spring to late autumn, especially during the hot summer months.
Whenever you are outdoors, especially near any greeneries, high grass, or bushes, always check for ticks! Use repellents from the skin and insecticides for your clothes. If you own any pets, checking them for ticks is also advised. If you get bit, with a pair of tweezers, grab the tick and slowly pull it away from your skin without squashing it.
The good news is, if you happen to get TBE, patients are not contagious to other people. The bad news is that the illness starts off easy. It takes 2 to 28 days for the symptoms to manifest, and they’re the same as the flu, which eventually fade away, and improvement appears to be in sight. However, approximately 7 days later, the symptoms develop further and include high fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, stiffness of the neck, and sometimes even paralysis. Often, permanent damage is left, and in some rare cases, the disease can be fatal.
There is no cure for TBE, but luckily, there is a vaccine. Yearly, the number of cases pre-vaccination would vary between 300 and 700 cases in Austria, but with 85% of the population in the country being vaccinated, the number of cases has pummeled to between 41 and 113 cases per year.
From the early age of 1 year old, you can get the vaccine. Basic immunization is achieved after 3 vaccination doses. Then, boosters are planned. The first booster shot is planned 3 years after achieving immunization, then every 5 years up until reaching the age of 60. From that point on, a booster shot is required every 3 years.
You can register to get the vaccine in Vienna through the vaccination portal. To your vaccination appointment, bring your e-card with you (if possible), vaccination pass (if available), a photo ID, and a completed vaccination form that you’ll receive in your email when booking the appointment. Of course, don’t forget your FFP2 mask!
During summer there are often campaigns to get vaccinated for a very low cost! Otherwise, you can buy the vaccine in your local Apotheke (with a discount if you have the e-Card) and go to your GP (Hausarzt) to get it applied. This will cost you around 40€ in total, depending on your doctor.
Stay safe and healthy!