Research by Tick Alert has revealed that of those adventure holidaymakers who enjoy cycling 52 per cent plan to go to countries in 2007 where Tick Borne Encephalitis (TBE) is endemic.
But while 8 out of 10 had heard of the disease only 15 per cent sought protection on previous travels and 70 per cent didn’t know they need to take precautions.
Leading scientists have confirmed that TBE, which can lead to meningitis and in serious cases result in paralysis and death, is now endemic in 27 countries across mainland Europe, an increase of 11 on 2006.
Where are the ticks?
Ticks carrying the disease are found in many destinations popular for cycle tourism such as Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary with routes along the River Danube, and in the Czech Republic and Slovenia, where cycling is a growing holiday sport.
According to Tick Alert, the chances of being bitten are greater as global warming increases the number of ticks in the countryside. It is estimated that there are over 10,000 cases of TBE each year in endemic countries.
Professor Michael Kunze, of the Medical University Vienna, Austria and a leading expert in the prevention of TBE, said: “Every contact with grass or bushes in these countries is potentially dangerous.
“Travellers from non-endemic countries such as the UK are hardly aware at all of the potential risks of TBE when journeying into an endemic country.”
TBE-infected ticks are found typically in rural and forest areas from late spring and throughout summer. At-risk groups include all visitors to rural areas of endemic countries, particularly those participating in outdoor activities such as cycling and mountain biking.
TBE endemic countries are: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine.
What to do to reduce the risk of infection
A number of measures can be taken to reduce the risk of infection: these include using an insect repellent, wearing trousers and long-sleeved clothing to cover all areas of exposed skin, regularly inspecting for tick bites and carefully removing any found. The disease can also be transmitted by the ingestion of unpasteurised milk which should be avoided.
The Tick Alert campaign warns UK travellers to check risk areas and seek further information and advice available at masta-travel-health.com/tickalert.