An infectious or bacterial disease affecting the brain or meninges is called encephalitis. The virus is usually transmitted via ticks, less commonly via mosquitoes, and rarely via the alimentary route (in cow’s, goat’s or sheep’s milk). High-risk groups include younger and older age groups, but the highest incidence of tick-borne encephalitis has recently been in the age group 45-64. The second place of tick-borne encephalitis belongs to the elderly above 65. The threat of encephalitis is a global issue which may be prevented by vaccination and a strong immune system.
The disease is transmitted primarily via ticks. Many people believe infection can only develop when a tick attaches to the skin, but the risk occurs even with an injury acquired during the extraction of a tick from a domestic animal. Only infected female ticks called nymphs are responsible for the virus transmission, because adult males do not suck, they only search for females on their hosts. A less likely but possible way of transmission may be after drinking raw milk or unpasteurised dairy originating from infected animals (e.g. goats, cows, sheep). High-risk groups include children and the elderly, because children’s immune system is not fully developed, and immunity in older people is weaker due to age. However, the immune system may be weakened anytime throughout life and hence become a risk factor of viral infection. If a tick attaches to the skin, immunity should always be enhanced.
Incubation period and diagnosis
The incubation period is usually 7 to 14 days, or even 1 month in some cases. Symptoms resemble a mild flu and arise after the incubation period. Tick-borne encephalitis is detected via laboratory blood tests.
Signs and symptoms
The initial signs and symptoms resemble a mild flu and include muscle and joint pain, headaches, malaise and fever. Flu symptoms usually last a couple of days and subside as if a person has fully recovered. After some time a second phase of encephalitis develops; this is associated with other clinical symptoms, more serious in their progression. Symptoms typical for this phase are headaches and vomiting as virus attacks higher brain centres and brain membranes. Photophobia, tremors, vertigo and fever are also manifested. When the virus attacks the lower brain centres, the disease becomes severe and life-threatening and may cause the arrest of vital functions. Less common manifestations are paralysis, hearing impairments, concentration and memory defects, or sleep disturbances.
Vaccination is nowadays the easiest method of preventing encephalitis; however, its harmless effects on health are a subject of discussions. Avoiding ticks is essential. When outdoors, the skin should be protected using appropriate clothing (firm shoes, trousers tucked into socks, hat). Ticks often get onto a person from under the trouser legs and climb up to warm and moist parts of the body. Using a repellent also helps to avoid ticks; it is applied on a rim of trouser legs and sleeves and the neck. If you cannot avoid a tick attachment, it is necessary to remove it fast and properly. A strong immune system helps to protect us from the virus. If immunity is weak, the virus has higher chances to infect and the body struggles to defend itself. Promotion of the immune system using natural food supplements may be started anytime. Even after the tick attaches, the boost of immunity can come to rescue.
If symptoms of encephalitis arise several weeks after the tick attachment, it is recommended to visit a doctor who assesses your health and refers to blood tests. A suspicious sign of infection may be a red spot after the tick attaches. In any case, with the first flu-like symptoms the immune system should be enhanced to prevent a more serious disease such as tick-borne encephalitis.
Impact of the immune system on encephalitis
A strong immune system is capable of defeating viruses and parasites causing many diseases such as tick-borne encephalitis. Therefore, the focus should be on boosting the immunity all the time and not only when a tick attacks, and to target it using natural food supplements or other natural products. Unfortunately, a wide range of external influences of the modern times inhibit the power of immunity making it weaker; thus prevention is the most important tool to cope with the weakness and the potential onset of encephalitis.