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Tick-borne encephalitis - how does it work and what are its symptoms?

Tick-borne encephalitis - how does it work and what are its symptoms?


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Although most of us associate ticks mainly with Lyme disease, it is worth knowing that these small arachnids can also carry other diseases dangerous to human health, e.g. tick-borne encephalitis. This disease, also calledtick-borne meningitis, whether early-age encephalitis occurs seasonally just in the spring-summer and early years. Although most infections in both adults and children are usually asymptomatic, sometimes serious and long-lasting complications can develop.

How does TBE manifest and develop?

Tick-borne encephalitis usually proceeds asymptomatic or scanty symptomatic and his symptoms develop around 1 in 1,000 (less often in children). The incubation period of this disease can range from 7 to even 28 days. When we deal with a symptomatic form of the disease, it usually has two phases:

  • I phase - it is a period of about 1-8 days and there are harbinger-like symptoms similar to flu symptoms: fever, joint pain, weakness, breakdown, nausea, vomiting, sometimes respiratory tract infection, sometimes also a rash.
  • Phase II - develops after an asymptomatic period of several days, followed by involvement of the central nervous system in the form of: meningitis (60%), meningitis (30%) or meningitis, brain and spinal meningitis (10%).
  • In phase II ill patients usually have a fever of up to 40 degrees, in addition there are headaches, nausea and vomiting. Sometimes there is also nystagmus, nerve palsy, paresis, sensory disturbance or trembling of the limbs. There may also be disorders of swallowing and speech, seizures and even disorders of consciousness up to and including coma.

Symptoms of the disease disappear for about 2 weeks - 2 months, but often in the case of brain or spinal cord involvement they can leave long-term complications.

What to do if you notice the symptoms of TBE?

If you notice the symptoms described earlier - see a doctor. The period of heralding symptoms similar to the flu clinical picture requires symptomatic treatment, among others antipyretic, which must be supervised by a specialist. Due to the non-specificity of the symptoms, the doctor during the examination will try to make a diagnosis, excluding other diseases. However, you should know that it is very difficult because the large similarity of symptoms and the lack of a bite mark or the presence of a tick on the skin, speaks for the diagnosis of influenza. If, however, there are symptoms of encephalitis or meningitis, the patient should be referred to hospital.

Diagnostics and management

Diagnosis of tick-borne encephalitis in the first phase of the disease due to the non-specificity of the disease symptoms and laboratory tests results is practically impossible. This can be successfully done in the second phase of the disease, when antibodies to the antigen of the virus in the blood and its RNA in cerebrospinal fluid and serum are sought.

Due to the fact that there is no causal treatment in tick-borne encephalitis, therapy is based on relieving symptoms and hydrating the body. The patient is given multi-electrolyte fluids to compensate for disorders caused by vomiting, analgesics, antipyretics and drugs to reduce brain edema are used. This procedure is aimed at alleviating the course of the disease and reducing the risk of developing long-term complications. During the therapy, the patient should remain in the hospital under the supervision of medical staff. Tick-borne encephalitis is associated with a favorable prognosis and mortality does not exceed 1%. Usually it is asymptomatic and disappears without complications, however, in patients with encephalomyelitis they may occur. Mainly there is a sensory and paresis disorder, memory and concentration disorders, depression or muscular atrophy, which can become permanent without proper rehabilitation. After treatment, it is advisable to limit physical exertion over a period of several weeks, while in the event of neurological complications there is a need for their treatment and possible rehabilitation

How to avoid getting sick?

The most important in the prevention of tick-borne diseases is to avoid exposure to contact and tick bites. When going for a walk in the meadows or in the woods, remember to put on clothes that cover as much of the body as possible - long pants and a long-sleeved blouse. On such a trip it is also worth putting on longer socks, and full shoes will be a better choice than sandals or flip flops. In the months of the year and in areas particularly at risk of tick attacks, the use of an appropriate repellent - insect repellent should be rethought. Vaccination against this disease is also a particularly important way to prevent tick-borne encephalitis. The first two doses of this vaccine are given 4-12 weeks apart, the third about 9-12 months after the second. Three years after the end of vaccination, one booster dose is required to maintain immunity.

Although tick-borne encephalitis is usually asymptomatic, 1 in 1000 infected develops a symptomatic form of the disease. Initially, the symptoms may resemble flu, but then the symptoms of central nervous system involvement: the brain, meninges and spinal cord, which can give serious and long-lasting complications. To avoid infection and the possibility of developing such complications as e.g. paralysis and paresis, cerebellar damage or depression, it is worth preventing infection by using appropriate prophylaxis. When going out to the woods to the meadows or even a walk in the city, put on clothes tightly covering the body, and if necessary use repellents. An important and effective prevention of tick-borne encephalitis is the use of a 3-dose vaccine, after which the body should develop resistance to infection.