Tick-borne encephalitis is an extremely dangerous viral infection spread by ticks. This disease can lead to serious inflammation of the central nervous system, long-term residual effects, or even death. In Lithuania, ticks are widespread and there has been an increase in new cases of tick-borne encephalitis in the last decade, mostly linked to a growing tick population due to warmer winters. Contrary to common belief, exposure to this disease isn't only possible in the wilderness. In recent years, more cases are being recorded in cities, mostly in parks or urban forests. Young ticks (nymphs) can easily latch onto and bite unnoticed, causing tick-borne encephalitis or Lyme disease, even without venturing into the wilderness. The vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis is the most effective prevention measure against this dangerous disease.
Diagnosing tick-borne encephalitis is challenging, as its symptoms can emerge when the disease is already advanced or may not be specific – similar to symptoms of other diseases. If you suspect that you may have contracted tick-borne encephalitis, immediately consult with your family doctor. The test for tick-borne encephalitis is based on detecting classes M and G immunoglobulins (IgM and IgG) in serum. IgM antibodies begin to be produced from day 3–5 after infection and can remain in the body for up to 2–3 months. IgG antibodies appear later, from day 7–10 of the disease, and can remain for life. Precise diagnosis of tick-borne encephalitis also relies on patient history, clinical symptoms, and lab tests.
Vaccination against tick-borne encephalitis is the most effective defense against this disease. You can get vaccinated at any time, but it’s recommended to do so before the warm season, when tick activity is lowest. Vaccination can follow the usual schedule or an accelerated one, the latter being recommended during the warm season.
How can the risk of tick-borne encephalitis be reduced? The most reliable method to prevent tick-borne encephalitis is vaccination. However, daily preventive actions can also protect you from the primary disease vectors – ticks and mosquitoes:
In some cases, there may be mild side effects after receiving the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine. The most common side effects include:
Although there may be reactions to the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine, the benefits of being vaccinated against a potentially fatal disease significantly outweigh these minor and temporary symptoms. You can get vaccinated according to both regular and accelerated vaccination schedules. To acquire immunity against tick-borne encephalitis, it is essential to receive three doses of the vaccine and not to forget booster shots every 3-5 years.