The incidence of tularaemia in Switzerland has increased greatly in the past decade.
Tularaemia is causes by the bacterium Francisella tularensis which can cause a long-lasting systemic illness that initially has flu-like symptoms. It is widespread in the northern hemisphere and can be transmitted by ticks. It is not transmissible between people. There is no vaccine against tularaemia.
Travellers should be aware of tularaemia, particularly if they are in rural parts of endemic countries. Ticks are more common from April to October.
At-risk travellers should be advised to:
- take precautions against tick bites including the use of insect repellents on the skin and insecticide impregnated clothes covering the skin as much as possible (long sleeves and long trousers tucked into socks)
- the skin should be inspected daily for ticks, ticks may brush onto clothing but keep crawling for hours to find suitable skin to feed on, particularly in the groin, axillae and behind the knees
- any ticks seen should be removed as quickly as possible by grasping the tick as near to the skin surface as possible and applying gentle traction (without twisting)
- if a sore or rash develops at the site of a tick bite, medical advice should be sought
Other prevention measures include:
- do not drinking untreated surface water
- do not handle dead wild animals, particularly rabbits, hares and rodents. If this is unavoidable, e.g. for work purposes, use gloves
- thoroughly cook all meat before eating
Further information and advice for clinicians advising travellers can be accessed on TRAVAX.