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Planning Retirement Online

 'Golden Agers' at risk of deadly tick disease

                                April 2007



Holidaymakers over 50 have been singled out by world experts as the main age group at risk from a potentially life-threatening tick disease when travelling in Europe this summer.

Leading scientists have confirmed that Tick Borne Encephalitis (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.

According to Professor Michael Kunze of the Medical University Vienna, and a leading expert in the prevention of TBE, the increasingly active lifestyle of people reaching middle age, a group he calls ‘Golden Agers’, means they are more likely to spend leisure time in the great outdoors in areas where the disease is endemic.

He says: “Because the immune system’s efficiency is reduced
with increasing age, the mortality rate due to TBE is 15 times higher in patients above than below 50 years of age.”

The Tick Alert campaign warns UK travellers to check risk areas and seek further information and advice. Ticks carrying the disease are found in many destinations growing in popularity such as Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia and have now spread to parts of established holiday spots such as Italy, Greece and France.

A survey conducted by Tick Alert reveals that the 55-64 age group is most likely to visit an endemic country in 2007, with over 52% respondents saying they are planning to travel to at least one affected destination.

Professor Kunze adds: “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 trekking, hiking, climbing, cycling and camping.



A number of measures can be taken to reduce the risk of infection:

  • use an insect repellent

  • wear trousers and long-sleeved clothing to cover all areas of exposed skin

  • regularly inspect for tick bites and carefully remove any found

  • the disease can also be transmitted by the ingestion of unpasteurised milk which should be avoided

  • the Foreign Office advises that visitors to TBE endemic regions seek advice from their local surgery or clinic – well before travelling

  • 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



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