What Is Tick Borne Encephalitis & How Long Does It Last?
Tick Borne Encephalitis is a pathological condition caused by the Tick Borne Encephalitis Virus, which is transmitted to humans by ticks which is a very small insect usually found in the woods or marshlands.
Tick Borne Encephalitis is quite rare in the United States due to the vaccination present to protect individuals from this condition. It is more prevalent in some European and Asian nations.
When first infected with Tick Borne Encephalitis virus, the affected individual will have flu like symptoms with fever, headache, lethargy, and a general sense of feeling sick. These symptoms usually will last for about a week after which in majority of the cases the individual is cured from the infection.
However, in some cases the infection spreads to the brain or the spinal cord which results in him or her having further symptoms. This is called the second stage of Tick Borne Encephalitis.
This phase of the infection has far more serious symptoms which may cause certain complications if not treated appropriately. The symptoms include decreased mental awareness, confusion, seizures, photophobia, problems speaking, and in some cases paralysis. In such condition, the individual needs to be treated in an inpatient setting to prevent any complications from the symptoms caused by Tick Borne Encephalitis. Usually it takes a few months before an individual can be declared completely recovered from Tick Borne Encephalitis.
How Can One Get Tick Borne Encephalitis?
Tick Borne Encephalitis virus can be transmitted to humans by insects called ticks. The virus is present in the saliva of the tick and when the tick bites, the virus infiltrates the human body resulting in symptoms of Tick Borne Encephalitis.
The saliva of the tick is a natural anesthetic and hence if a tick bites an individual he or she will not know whether they have been bitten by a tick. The breeding ground for these ticks is forest areas, marshlands, grasslands, along the banks of rivers, and areas where there are a lot of shrubs.
The ticks usually conceal themselves under the thick overgrowth of the trees and shrubs and thus when an individual passes through these shrubs or trees then can easily stick on to the clothing of the individual and can bite them.
People who love camping outdoors and hiking in the woods are at an increased risk for getting bit by a tick and getting infected by Tick Borne Encephalitis.
Some of the countries where ticks are more prevalent are Germany, France, Denmark, Russia, and China and people going to these places from the United States should make sure that they are adequately vaccinated and protected against Tick Borne Encephalitis.
What Are The Symptoms Of Tick Borne Encephalitis?
The symptoms of Tick Borne Encephalitis appear in two stages. In the first stage of the infection, the symptoms are moderate and self limiting. These symptoms usually begin about three to four weeks after being bitten by the tick. They include high grade fever, persistent headaches, lethargy, muscle pain, and general sense of feeling sick. These symptoms of Tick Borne Encephalitis last for about a week and then go away.
Most of the people are declared treated after the first phase of the symptoms. However, in some cases, the infection spreads to the brain and the spinal cord. In such cases, following the first stage of symptoms, the individual will have symptoms which will be much more serious and include meningitis which is a condition in which there is inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Additionally, the patients will have encephalitis which is inflammation of the brain. Other associated symptoms include:
- Sudden fever
- Nausea with vomiting
- Neck stiffness
- Persistent headaches
- Change of mental awareness
- Confusion and disorientation
- Problems speaking
- Behavioral changes
- Paralysis in some acute cases.
If an individual starts having these symptoms then he or she needs to go to the nearest emergency room for treatment so as to prevent complications from Tick Borne Encephalitis.
The symptoms start to get better with treatment over a period of about four weeks but in some cases it may take months to completely get rid of Tick Borne Encephalitis.
How Is Tick Borne Encephalitis Diagnosed?
Advanced radiological studies in the form of CT and MRI scan of the brain are the first thing that is done whenever symptoms make a physician suspect a problem with the brain or the spinal cord. These studies will clearly show areas of inflammation around the brain and spinal cord.
Additionally, a lumbar puncture will also be done to look for any abnormalities. These tests will give a confirmatory diagnosis of Encephalitis, but to specifically diagnose Tick Borne Encephalitis, blood tests will be done which will be positive for the presence of Tick Borne Encephalitis Virus which will confirm the diagnosis of Tick Borne Encephalitis.
How Is Tick Borne Encephalitis Treated?
Once a diagnosis of Tick Borne Encephalitis is confirmed, the staging of the disease is done. If the disease is in its first stage then the symptoms will resolve within a week with full recovery of the patient.
In cases where the patient has entered the second phase of the infection where the brain and spinal cord get infected then treatment will be required. As of now, there is no cure for Tick Borne Encephalitis but treatment is mainly symptomatic.
The Tick Borne Encephalitis patient will be given intravenous fluids along with breathing assistance. Anticonvulsants may be given for seizures. This will be continued till the symptoms start to abate within a few weeks and once the symptoms fully abate the patient is declared as fully recovered from Tick Borne Encephalitis.
How To Prevent Tick Borne Encephalitis?
The best way to prevent getting infected from Tick Borne Encephalitis Virus is to get vaccinated against the infection. This should be done especially when an individual is traveling in places where there is an increased risk of tick bites such as woods, forests, or marshlands.
Despite being vaccinated, the individual still needs to take precautions by wearing full clothing and leaving as little area exposed as possible, apply insect repellent, and check for any ticks on the body when in areas where there are increased chances of ticks being around in order to prevent Tick Borne Encephalitis.
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