Tickborne Encephalitis

What is tickborne encephalitis?

Tickborne encephalitis is a disease caused by a virus. The virus spreads to people in a few ways:

  • Bite from an infected tick
  • Eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products (milk and cheese) from infected goats, sheep, or cows.

Most people infected with tickborne encephalitis do not feel sick. When symptoms occur, they may include fever, aches, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, and vomiting. Some people develop swelling of the brain and/or spinal cord, confusion, and sensory disturbances. Tickborne encephalitis can sometimes cause death.

Who can get tickborne encephalitis?

Travelers to many parts of Europe and Asia may be at risk for infection with tickborne encephalitis virus. Check if this disease is a concern at your destination.

Activities that increase a travelers’ chances getting tickborne encephalitis include camping, hiking, and hunting. Travelers are more likely to get infected with tickborne encephalitis when traveling to affected areas April through November, this is when ticks are most active.

What can travelers do to prevent tickborne encephalitis?

Travelers can protect themselves against tickborne encephalitis by taking the following precautions:

Prevent Tick Bites

  • Know where to expect ticks. Ticks live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, or even on animals. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting could bring you in close contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yard or neighborhood.
  • Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. EPA’s helpful search tool can help you find the product that best suits your needs. Always follow product instructions. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.
  • Avoid Contact with Ticks
    • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
    • Walk in the center of trails.

Find and Remove Ticks

  • Check your clothing for ticks. Ticks may be carried into the house on clothing. Any ticks that are found should be removed. Tumble dry clothes in a dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors. If the clothes are damp, additional time may be needed. If the clothes require washing first, hot water is recommended. Cold and medium temperature water will not kill ticks.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and daypacks.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

Eat only pasteurized dairy products

Pre-travel tickborne encephalitis vaccine

There is not vaccine to prevent tickborne encephalitis available in the United States, but it is available in some other countries. Travelers anticipating high-risk activities may consider being vaccinated in Europe. However, because the vaccination series requires more than 6 months for completion, most travelers will find avoiding tick bites and unpasteurized dairy products to be more practical than vaccination.

stethoscope

If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.

If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.

Traveler Information

Clinician Information