TBE was previously considered to be endemic in Styria but experts believe that due to climate change, and warmer, milder Springs this is no longer the case. Last year there were only 16 cases in the province, with twice as many cases in Upper Austria and Tyrol.
TBE is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and can result in serious meningitis, encephalitis (brain inflammation), and in some cases death.
Ticks usually contract the virus after biting hedgehogs or mice but virologist Egon Marth says that due to a warm spring ticks developed earlier than usual, at a point when the virus hadn’t yet infected mice.
Marth added that for the last 15 years studies have noted that the virus has tended to be more predominant in the cooler, north-west regions of Europe.
He believes that another factor in the downward trend of TBE infections in Styria is the fact that 85 per cent of people in the province get vaccinated. A national immunisation campaign against TBE has existed in Austria since 1980.
To protect yourself from ticks it is recommended to use an effective insect repellent, avoid wearing shorts in rural and wooded areas, and tuck trousers into socks.
You should always inspect your skin for ticks after hiking and remove any as soon as possible with fine-tipped tweezers. In a steady motion, pull the tick's body away directly outwards without jerking or twisting. In the case of persistent redness, swelling, or pain consult a doctor.