Refresh TBE vaccination (Zeckenimpfung): First ticks are already encountered

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At 80 percent, the vaccination coverage rate against early summer meningoencephalitis (TBE) in Austria is quite remarkable. Nevertheless, in the previous year, 179 people had to be treated in hospitals after tick bites and two deaths. Accordingly, the Association of Vaccine Manufacturers (ÖVIH) appealed at a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday to carry out primary immunization and, above all, not to forget the necessary boosters.

One aspect, the effects of which have not yet been fully clarified, concerns climate change. As environmental physician Hans-Peter Hutter explained, the ticks are spreading both northward and to higher altitudes due to rising temperatures, meanwhile, to areas at around 1500 meters. It is not yet possible to say whether this is associated with a higher infection density of the animals, as there are very complex relationships here. In addition, mild winters are favorable for the ticks; on the other hand, hot, dry summers would be disadvantageous for their thriving.

Although TBE refers to early summer, the first cases occur in February and the last in December because the ticks can already be active at eight degrees Celsius, said Bettina Pfausler of Med Uni Innsbruck. Although one-third of the population has a natural immune defense and a large proportion is protected by vaccination, in severe cases, the virus enters the brain, sometimes with dramatic consequences, causing various neurological manifestations reminiscent of polio. Full recovery is usually not possible, and some affected people also die.

According to Maria Paulke-Korinek of the Department of Immunization at the Ministry of Health, the protection rate from the sting is very high at 83 to 99 percent. After the three-part primary immunization, the first booster is given after three years, after which another sting every five years is sufficient. However, people over 60 should reduce this interval to three years, as their immune system is no longer as effective. A titer determination is not recommended, as it is only a snapshot. And even for those who have forgotten about a booster for longer, a simple supporter would suffice, according to the expert.

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