A significant increase in cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) this year has been reported by the Federal Office of Public Health, which recommends getting vaccinated against the virus.
Some 150 people have already been infected with the virus – which in rare cases can be fatal – since the beginning of 2018, the health authorities said in a reportexternal link on Monday.
In June alone, 73 people fell ill with early-summer meningoencephalitis. This is a significant increase compared with figures for June for previous years, the health office wrote. From 2000 to 2017, between 46 and 109 cases were reported for the whole year.
The blood-sucking tick is very active early on this year, it said. Significantly more people had sought treatment for tick bites or Lyme disease so far this year.
By the end of June around 21,300 visits to the doctor concerned tick bites and 6,900 were acute cases of Lyme diseases, according to a health office projection.
In Switzerland, the tick season starts in March and ends in June, depending on the weather. The health office says ticks are found above all in deciduous forests with lush undergrowth and at an altitude of up to 1,500m.
Only a small proportion of ticks carry the TBE virus, which occurs only in certain areas of Switzerland.
TBE-infected ticks can cause the outbreak of two stages of the disease. During a first episode, which occurs seven to 14 days after the sting, patients suffer flu-like symptoms such as headaches, fever, fatigue or joint complaints.
In 5%-15% of those affected, a second stage of the illness develops, which can last for months and may involve symptoms of meningitis or encephalitis. These symptoms can cause paralysis and leave permanent disabilities. About 1% of cases are fatal.
The health office recommends vaccination against the TBE virus for people from the age of six who live in an area where the disease is endemic.
Much more common than tick-borne encephalitis is Lyme diseases, which must be treated with antibiotics.