FSME Vaccination (Früh Sommer Meningo Encephalitis)
FSME is a viral infection of the brain. The disease is spread by ticks. Ticks can be found almost everywhere in the world but they are by no means all infected with FSME. Central and eastern European countries, the Balkans, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, eastern France, Austria and southern Germany are home to FSME-infected ticks. In the Netherlands, the virus does not occur.
Ticks live in natural areas. The spider-like creatures hide in high grass or low bushes. As soon as a human or animal passes by, they bite into their skin. Ticks can be infected with viruses, including FSME. People become infected through the bite of an infected tick. Most infections happen in summer or early autumn, when ticks are most numerous.
In most cases, FSME progresses without serious symptoms. The patient may feel flu-like. Sometimes, however, after initial improvement, this 'flu' turns into a serious infection of the brain with meningitis. This may involve fever, headache, neck stiffness and vomiting. After such a severe infection, a variety of neurological residual symptoms may remain.
To avoid infection in natural areas, wear clothing that covers the body. The use of insect repellents, based on DEET is useful for protection against tick bites; the product can be applied on the skin or on clothing. The duration of action is limited (a few hours). After returning home, check your body for the presence of ticks. They prefer dark, warm places such as the hollow of the knee, groin or armpit. If you do get bitten: a tick attaches to the body, but can be removed. Do so as quickly and carefully as possible. The longer the tick sits on the body, the greater the risk of FSME infection. Grasp the tick between your thumb and index finger or with fine, pointed tweezers behind the head and pull it straight up. Above all, do not use alcohol or a lit cigarette when removing it.
Protection by vaccination is possible and recommended in some cases. This is a series of three vaccinations, at 0-1-6/12 months, you are then protected for at least three years.