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Professor: official statistics do not reflect full picture of the scale of tick encephalitis

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUIn many cases, people in Latvia suffer tick encephalitis without even knowing it. On top of that, doctors do not always provide the right diagnosis to those people – there have been cases when this infectious disease had been confused with a different virus infection, admits Prof. Ludmila Viksna of Riga Stradins University’s Medical Faculty Infectious Diseases and Dermatology Department.

‘This means the real number of people suffering from tick encephalitis in Latvia is larger than what is reported by official statistics. I cannot say how much larger, but there is definitely a difference,’ – Viksne said.

Scientific research data shows that tick encephalitis leaves serious consequences for some patients, including paralysis, disability, etc. Even a light stage of the disease can leave a serious impact on the nervous system and muscle activity. This is something most people often do not associate those problems with ticks.

The so-called post-polio syndrome or muscle and nerve disorder, which significantly worsens the quality of life for people, is indicative of the real scale of tick encephalitis problem in Latvia. Unfortunately, there is currently no precise data to say for certain. Riga Stradins University and Riga Eastern University Hospital have launched a study to better understand the consequences of this syndrome on people’s health after suffering different neurological infections, including encephalitis.

«It is not possible to predict in which cases the aforementioned syndrome could potentially appear. Nevertheless, a risk of it appearing after coming into contact with a tick carrying encephalitis exists nonetheless regardless of how the disease progresses,» – Viksna said.

To avoid devastating consequences of tick encephalitis, Viksna reminds that the only reliable method is vaccination.

165 cases of tick encephalitis infection were registered in Latvia in the first nine months of 2016, according to data from the Disease and Prevention Centre. The number of registered encephalitis cases in Latvia was 173 in 2014 and 169 in 2015. The number of encephalitis infection cases was the highest in 2011, when it was 494.

It should be added that tick activity can be unpredictable – calm years are sometimes followed by years of high activity.

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