Tick-borne encephalitis cases rise sharply in Czech Republic

Фото: Барбора Кментова

Specialists have revealed that there was a sharp rise in the incidence in tick-borne encephalitis, or TBE, in the Czech Republic last year. Some 1000 people contracted the potentially deadly disease which is transmitted by deer ticks: 60 percent more than in 2005. Earlier Jan Velinger spoke to Roman Prymula, the dean of the Military Medical Academy at the University of Defence in Hradec Kralove, and asked him about the reasons behind the sudden jump.

"This is a question of the last twenty years because the situation was fairly stable but in the least season the figures were really urgent. We are looking at possible factors and it appears the most influential were climate changes. Last year the situation was quite unique: a relatively wet April and May leading to ticks increasing. Also unique was a very dry and warm autumn with many people active in the woods and I think that too led to more people getting more exposed to ticks. The result is the very high incidence of TBE in our country."

In general, does the public take the threat of this disease seriously enough?

"I don't think so. We still have a habit that only those immunisations which are covered by the state and which are compulsory for us are 'necessary'. The rest, which are only 'recommended' only, are not perceived by our population as being as important. So, immunisation coverage is only about 11 percent - a very low figure compared to Austria."

What is the situation in Austria?

"They have about 80 percent immunisation coverage there, especially in kids. And although the risk there is about the same as in the Czech Republic the incidence is many times lower: only about 100 cases for the whole of Austria."

Given that the numbers have risen so high, do you think that more education is needed now to make the public more aware and interested in getting the vaccine?

"I think so. We have been trying in the last few years to put together public programmes but the coverage is still low, so I hope that the situation will improve. It's a very dangerous disease. Although in some people the disease is asymptomatic and they don't have any problems, the variety of the clinical picture is huge, ranging from memory loss to full paralysis and so on, so it's a very dangerous. We do not have any 'recipe' on how to avoid it except for immunisation."