This report has been published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe together with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and it is about the Lyme Borreliosis (LB) in Europe. LB is caused by the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks, mainly Ixodes ricinus. The number of cases in Europe has increased steadily, more than 360,000 cases having been reported over the last two decades. Central Europe is the region with the highest incidence of LB, as reported by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Slovenia.

Changes in the geographic and temporal distribution of the ticks and the disease have been observed in recent decades. Ticks are spreading to higher altitudes and more northern latitudes and disease incidence is shifting towards spring and autumn. Many factors are involved, including climate change, changes in land cover and land use, changes in the distribution of tick hosts, and human-induced changes in the environment.

Ticks become infected when they feed on small mammals (such as rodents) and certain birds that carry the bacterium in their blood. In risk areas, as many as 5-40% of ticks may be infected. The risk of contracting a tick-borne infection is determined by the overall number of ticks in the area, the proportion of those carrying disease, and human behaviour. In risk areas, people involved in outdoor recreational or occupational activities are at an increased risk of being bitten by ticks. No licensed vaccine is currently available for LB. The most effective ways of avoiding tick bites include wearing long trousers and long-sleeved shirts, and using repellents on the skin and clothing. The skin should be checked periodically for attached ticks, which should be removed as soon as possible.

Reference information

WHO Regional Office for Europe
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jun 25, 2021   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Apr 4, 2024

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