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5 Things Travelers Need To Know About Tick-Borne Encephalitis Vaccines

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International travel is fun, but not if you bring home a serious disease with you. Tick-borne encephalitis isn't something you need to worry about in the United States, but you may encounter it on your travels. Fortunately, there is an effective vaccine that can protect you on your trip. Here are five things that you need to know about the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine.

What is tick-borne encephalitis?

Tick-borne encephalitis is a life-threatening viral illness that is endemic to many parts of the world. The disease has two phases. In the first phase, people experience flu-like symptoms like muscle aches, vomiting, and fever. As many as 30% of people will experience a second phase of the illness after recovering from the first. This stage is much more serious and it can include things like meningitis or encephalitis. As many as 2% of people will die, and between 30% and 60% of survivors will be left with long-term neurological symptoms such as paralysis.

How do you get this disease?

You can get this illness if you get bitten by an infected tick on your vacation. Ticks can be found in forested areas or other areas with thick vegetation. Ticks have an anesthetic agent in their saliva, so it is easy to be bitten by one and not even realize it. You may not realize that you were bitten by a tick until you get sick.

Which travelers are at risk?

Tick-borne encephalitis is endemic to most of the countries in Europe as well as Russia and China. If your travel plans will take you to any of these regions, you may be at risk of contracting this disease. 

What you plan to do on your trip also affects your risk. If you plan to spend a lot of time camping, hiking, biking, or doing other outdoor activities, you may be more likely to encounter ticks than someone who's planning on spending their vacation indoors.

How is the vaccine given?

You need three doses of the vaccine to be protected. After you get your first dose, you need to wait 1 to 3 months to get your second one. The third dose is given anywhere between five and 12 months after the second one. Since it takes so long to be protected, you need to plan to get your immunizations taken care of long before you go on your trip. 

How well does the vaccine work?

According to the World Health Organization, these vaccines are very effective. Studies in mice have shown that the vaccine protects them for more than 30 years. Studies of human volunteers have also shown that the antibodies created by the vaccination were able to completely neutralize the virus.

If you plan to travel somewhere where tick-borne encephalitis is endemic, talk to your doctor to find out if you should be vaccinated before you go. To find out more, speak with someone like The Pediatric Center.