Only a fifth of travel health nurses would always recommend vaccination against tick borne encephalitis (TBE) to someone planning outdoor activities or an adventure holiday during spring and summer in a region of Europe where the disease is endemic, according to a survey.
Nurses are also twice as likely to consider protection from food and water-borne infections rather than TBE in Europe, with 67% citing hepatitis A as a vaccine "they think of" for patients compared to 35% naming TBE, the research showed.
The ISW, a group of scientists and health experts investigating TBE, which is now endemic in 27 countries in Europe, says for unimmunised tourists, the likelihood of contracting TBE is similar to the risk of contracting typhoid in India.
Professor Michael Kunze, head of the ISW, said: "Holidaymakers from the UK heading for many parts of central Europe this summer, as in previous years, risk contracting this potentially debilitating and fatal tick disease but are not told to protect against it as they are with other travel-related illness."
The ISW estimates there are 10,000 people every year in Europe needing hospital treatment for TBE.
"TBE is preventable, not treatable in the same manner as other tick diseases, and more must be done to persuade UK travellers of the need for vaccination," added Professor Kunze.
The research also revealed that there is an apparent lack of willingness to recommend TBE vaccination for certain high risk travellers. Three-quarters were aware that a pre-travel vaccine for TBE is available and many cited at-risk groups such as hikers/walkers (57%), outdoors enthusiasts (47%) and campers (32%) as those whom they would advise had the immunisation.
This may be due to ignorance among holidaymakers as the survey suggests travellers too are not aware of the serious risk of TBE or are not taking the risk of TBE seriously enough. Almost a third (31%) of nurses said they never saw patients wanting advice for spring and summer outdoor holidays in Europe, 20% saw patients frequently while just under half (47%) reported only seeing patients occasionally.
TBE is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and may cause illnesses ranging from mild to severe, with permanent consequences such as concentration problems, paralysis and depression.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 35–58% of TBE patients are left with long-term neurological sequelae, such as paralysis, and some 2% of patients die of the disease.
"Yes I have given this vaccine quite a lot, for example, to a group of scouts camping in Austria, families visiting friends/family in Europe. Often you don't see people travelling to Europe but when I do I discuss the risks and there is a very good leaflet from Tick Alert, www.tickalert.org" - Sue Barnes, Weybridge
"Some but for the far east mainly, not often for European travel and where I have recommended it they have refused saying they will take their chances!" - Catherine Hodge-Moss, Hertfordshire