Tick-borne encephalitis threatens almost all of Switzerland

Not actual size: a tick warning sign in a forest in Germany. Keystone

Only two Swiss cantons are not considered “at-risk” zones for tick-borne diseases, the Federal Office of Public Health has announced. Vaccination is recommended.

This content was published on February 4, 2019 - 14:34

Following a recent government call for mass vaccinations against the debilitating tick-borne encephalitis disease, the health office said on Monday it considered the entire country – except cantons Geneva and Ticino – to be at risk.

In a press release (French)External link, the office repeated the call for anybody who may be exposed to ticks – for example walkers, especially in forests – to be vaccinated. Residents of Geneva or Ticino travelling outside their canton for such activities should also get the jab, it said.

The optimum time for vaccination is in winter, the office wrote, so that walkers and hikers are protected once the good weather and riskiest period (from April to October) rolls around.

+ Coming to Switzerland? Watch out for ticks!

Last year 380 cases of tick-borne encephalitis, a debilitating disease that attacks the central nervous system and can be fatal, were reported in Switzerland, compared with 100 per year in previous years.

The other major disease transmitted by tick bites, Lyme disease, which is treatable in early stages with antibiotics but which sometimes brings lasting complications, is not preventable through vaccination.

To reduce the risk of picking up Lyme disease, or indeed the encephalitis strain, authorities recommend avoiding particularly at-risk areas, for example bushes and tall grass, as well as using an insect repellent and wearing clothing that covers the arms, legs and feet.

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