Ticks are on the move – Protect yourself from tick-borne encephalitis

Ticks appear in the spring when the temperature permanently rises above zero. In Finland, ticks are found across the country, excluding the northernmost part of Lapland. Their numbers are highest in coastal areas and the archipelago. Click here to see a distribution map.

Ticks carry tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) and Lyme disease in their saliva. TBE is a viral infectious disease spread by ticks. More than half of all infections are symptom-free. Slightly over a week after the tick bite, a fever arises that lasts for less than a week. After a fever-free period of 3–21 days, one-third of the infected people get a high fever and central nervous system symptoms, some for a prolonged period of time.

Vaccination protects from TBE

You can protect yourself from TBE with a vaccination. Through a national programme, TBE vaccinations are given to people living or residing for long periods of time in risk areas determined annually by the National Institute for Health and Welfare. Others can take the vaccination at their own expense or through their occupational healthcare. The employer pays for the vaccination if the risk of catching TBE is higher than usual due to work or business travel. The Finnish Defence Forces can give vaccinations to those serving in coastal areas for extended periods of time. Prescriptions for vaccinations at cost price are available from public healthcare centres. Vaccinations are also given by private healthcare service providers and on a bus touring Finland throughout the summer.

TBE vaccinations are recommended for people who spend considerable time in nature in areas with a significant risk for TBE: in other words, if you spend more than four weeks in an area where the incidence of TBE is 1–5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and where TBE cases have been detected in two consecutive years or at least two cases have been detected within one year. Such municipalities include Naantali, Raasepori and Kirkkonummi, for example. The risk of TBE should also be taken into account when travelling in the coastal areas of Sweden and in the Baltic countries and Central Europe. 

There is no vaccination against Lyme disease. You can protect yourself against Lyme disease by wearing clothing that covers most of the skin and avoiding areas where ticks are known to be found. Ticks thrive in all areas with suitable vegetation and sufficient humidity. Removing a tick appropriately within 24 hours of the bite considerably reduces the risk of infection.

Sources (in Finnish)

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