OH professionals have been warned to be on the look-out for symptoms of the potentially fatal Tick Borne Encephalitis (TBE) among workers returning from rural or outdoor locations in Eastern Europe this summer.
A campaign by the awareness-raising group, Tick Alert, has said OH advisers are largely unaware of the threat posed by TBE with the opening up of the European Union.
TBE is a viral disease contracted via the bite of an infected tick. It can lead to meningitis and in serious cases result in paralysis, with one in 30 cases fatal.
A survey of OH nurses by Tick Alert found that less than a quarter were aware that the disease was endemic in mainland Europe.
Almost two-thirds did not know the medical symptoms of TBE, and more than 60% said they would not be able to advise on precautions or treatment.
The group identified 16 central and eastern European countries where the TBE-infected tick population is endemic and poses a high risk to unprepared visitors.
These include newly popular European work and holiday destinations such as Croatia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Slovakia.
TBE-infected ticks are typically found in rural and forest areas from late spring through summer.
At-risk groups include visitors to endemic areas, but particularly those participating in outdoor work or activities who have not been immunised or taken bite prevention precautions.
Using insect repellent, wearing trousers and long-sleeved clothing, inspecting for tick bites and carefully removing any found can all help, it advised.