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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
June 2, 2010

Tick-Borne Encephalitis Among U.S. Travelers to Europe and Asia—2000-2009

JAMA. 2010;303(21):2132-2135. doi:

MMWR. 2010;59:335-338

2 tables omitted

Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) is the most common arbovirus transmitted by ticks in Europe. Approximately 10,000 cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) are reported annually in Europe and Russia.1 Although TBE is endemic in parts of China, information regarding its incidence is limited.1,2 TBEV is closely related to Powassan virus (POWV), another tick-borne flavivirus that is a rare cause of encephalitis in North America and Russia; TBEV and POWV can cross-react in serologic tests.3,4 Before 2000, two cases of TBE in North American travelers to Europe were reported.5,6 State health officials or clinicians send specimens from patients with unexplained encephalitis to CDC as part of routine surveillance and diagnostic testing. CDC recently reviewed all 2000-2009 laboratory records to identify cases of TBE among U.S. travelers; the five cases identified are summarized in this report. All five cases had TBEV or POWV immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies in serum and were confirmed as acute TBE cases by plaque-reduction neutralization tests against both viruses. All four patients who had traveled to Europe or Russia had biphasic illnesses (a common feature of TBE) and made nearly complete recoveries. The fifth patient, the first reported case of TBE in a U.S. traveler to China, had a monophasic illness with severe encephalitis and neurologic sequelae. Health-care providers should be aware of TBE, should counsel travelers about measures to reduce exposure to tick bites, and should consider the diagnosis of TBE in travelers returning from TBE-endemic countries with meningitis or encephalitis.