Much public health concern and scientific interest has been kindled by significant increases in incidence of tick-borne encephalitis over the past 1-2 decades. It is the most important vector-borne
disease of humans in Europe, for which excellent long-term data allow robust quantitative analyses.
Despite the increasing tendency to attribute all increases in vector-borne diseases to climate change, there is no convincing evidence that the appearance of new foci in Sweden, Switzerland, France and Germany during this century, or the upsurge in cases within well recognized endemic regions, is due to the recorded minor extensions of infectious ticks into higher altitudes and latitudes and into winter periods, in response to warmer conditions. Rather, there is now good evidence of greater human exposure to infected ticks through altered socioeconomic circumstances (in addition to higher densities of tick-feeding deer–not reviewed here), so far best quantified for Central and Eastern Europe.
Increased awareness of tick-borne encephalitis and understanding of the changing risk factors, including the role of human behaviour, will ensure better personal protection against infection, including vaccination and avoidance of high-risk activities.