May 19, 2008

Vaccine Urged For Those Attending Euro 2008 Tournament

A leading scientist is warning soccer fans that plan on attending Euro 2008 to get vaccinated against a potentially fatal disease spread by ticks.

Endemic in 27 European countries, including Euro 2008 host countries Switzerland and Austria, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) can lead to paralysis, coma and even death in a small number of cases.

In 2007, the number of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) cases in Europe that required hospitalization jumped 30 percent to 13,000.  And with forecasts for warmer temperatures, scientists worry about the disease spreading even further.

Two million foreign fans, and six million in total, are expected to attend the tournament, which will run June 7-29.   Based on those numbers, Professor Michael Kunze, head of the International Scientific Working Group on TBE, estimates as many as 600 people could be at risk of catching the disease, particularly those who go camping or hiking when they are not at the tournament.

"It might be more," Kunze told Reuters in an interview.

"If you don't know what you're looking for it's hard to recognize TBE as the symptoms are very flu-like.

"There is an awareness problem with TBE and we have to create awareness among doctors and among travelers. We can prevent TBE, but we cannot treat it."

A TBE vaccination program introduced in 1981 reduced the number of cases of the disease from 700 to fewer than 70 a year.  Kunze, whose research was not funded by vaccine manufacturers, advises those traveling to the tournament to consider the vaccine, which is 99 percent effective in preventing TBE.  

On the Net:

Euro 2008