Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis are common to Germany and, in some areas such as Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, are prevalent.
But all can be prevented with some simple precautions.
Lyme disease is caused by bacteria, while tick-borne encephalitis is caused by a virus, both of which live in ticks and can be transmitted when the tick bites a host.
The earliest symptom of Lyme disease is a rash that looks like a bull’s-eye at the site of the tick bite, and can progress to flu-like symptoms, including muscle soreness, headache, fever and malaise.
Early treatment with antibiotics can usually cure the disease, but left untreated it can cause persistent chronic problems and physical disability.
Tick-borne encephalitis can affect the central nervous system and causes symptoms similar to Lyme disease: headache, fatigue and muscle pain. In the event the virus does affect the central nervous system, paralysis can occur, and hospitalization might be required.
In the case of tick-borne diseases, the best offense is a good defense.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends minimizing areas of exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots and hats. Tucking in shirts, tucking pants into socks, and wearing closed shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Repellents or insecticides, such as those that contain DEET, can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection.
You should also check yourself, your loved ones and your pets for ticks after a trek through the outdoors. If you have been bitten, you should remove the tick carefully as soon as you discover it. Use a pair a tweezers to remove it as close to the skin as possible. Avoid squeezing the tick or removing the head while removing the tick.
An effective vaccine for tick-borne encephalitis is available, and consists of a series of three shots given over a period of approximately nine to 12 months. The makers of the vaccine have not sought U.S. licensure, so it is not available at military treatment facilities.
However, Tricare beneficiaries with at least nine months remaining in Germany may obtain the vaccine from a host nation facility, with a prescription from their primary care manager.