Tick-Borne Encephalitis

Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE) is a viral disease transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. TBE can cause swelling of the brain (encephalitis) and swelling of the membrane around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).

What are the symptoms of Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

Only one-third of people infected with TBE show symptoms. TBE may be suspected in travelers returning from high-risk areas who have a fever and then develop symptoms involving the central nervous system (e.g., meningitis, encephalitis, and possibly paralysis). The long-term outcome of TBE infection varies depending on the virus subtype.

How can I get Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

You can get TBE if you are bitten by an infected tick. Ticks live in underbrush and either crawl or jump on their victims. Ticks generally bite from April to November, with peak biting activity in the summer. You also risk exposure to the TBE virus if you consume unpasteurized dairy products from infected goats, sheep, or cows.

Where can I get Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

Different subtypes of TBE are found in different parts of central and Eastern Europe and some regions of Asia. TBE-infected ticks are found in the moist uncultivated undergrowth in parks, forests, woods, grasslands, riverside meadows, and marshes.

Your risk of contracting TBE depends on your destination, activities, the time of year you are travelling, and how long you are going for. A travel medicine specialist can determine whether TBE vaccine should be recommended for you.

How can I prevent Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent TBE. If you are travelling to a TBE-endemic area, talk to your travel medicine specialist who will help you to assess your risks and determine whether TBE vaccination is right for you.

Protect yourself from tick bites. Avoid tick-infected areas, use repellents, wear protective clothing, and avoid consuming unpasteurized dairy products. Even if you have been vaccinated for TBE, ticks do spread other serious bacterial and viral diseases. For more information on protecting yourself against tick bites, read our Insect Precautions information sheet.

What vaccines are available for Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

The FSME-IMMUN vaccine is licensed in Canada but is currently unavailable.  The vaccine is available in certain European countries.

How many shots will I need?

For full immunity you need three shots of the vaccine:

  • First Dose: Day 0.
  • Second Dose: 1 to 3 months after your first dose.
  • Third Dose: 5 to 12 months after the second dose.

Although getting three doses before you travel is ideal, two doses of the vaccine can provide a high degree of protection.

Will I need a booster?

If you continue to travel to TBE endemic areas and engage in activities that can expose you to the virus, you will need a booster every three to five years, depending on your age.

What is the treatment for Tick-Borne Encephalitis?

There is no cure for TBE. Treatment consists of supportive medical care and management of complications.