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Diseases transmitted by ticks – what can you do to protect yourself?

Ticks can spread a variety of pathogens. The two most common diseases are:

  • Lyme disease or borreliosis, and
  • tick-borne encephalitis (TBE).

Risk of exposure

Ticks are commonly found in deciduous forests with dense undergrowth, on the edge of woods and on woodland paths. They lie in wait on low-growing plants (up to 1.5 m) and drop off onto passing warm-blooded hosts (people or animals). In Switzerland, the most common variety of tick is Ixodes ricinus, the castor bean tick.

Lyme disease/borreliosis/

All areas where ticks are found are risk areas for Lyme disease.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

All of Switzerland, apart from the cantons of Geneva and Ticino, is a risk area.

Preventive measures

How to protect yourself against ticks:

  • Wear long trousers and closed shoes (tuck your trousers into your socks). Ticks are easier to spot on light-coloured clothing.
  • Use an anti-tick spray on clothing, shoes and parts of the body that may come in contact with grass or bushes.
  • Keep out of the undergrowth.
  • Check your body and clothing for ticks after you have been outdoors.

Lyme disease/borreliosis

There is no vaccination available against Lyme disease. This illness is more common than TBE and can be treated with antibiotics.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)

A vaccine against TBE is available, and the Federal Office of Public Health recommends it to everyone over the age of six who lives or occasionally spends time in a risk area (i.e. anywhere in Switzerland apart from the cantons of Geneva and Ticino). People who are never exposed to any risk (see above) do not need to be vaccinated. For the vaccine to take full effect, vaccination must take place several weeks before any exposure to ticks. Assuming the TBE vaccination is necessary, the costs will be covered by mandatory health insurance (subject to the deductible and franchise) or will be reimbursed by your employer if you are exposed to ticks when at work. There is no specific treatment for TBE.

Symptoms of the disease and further information on

Lyme disease/borreliosis (not available in English)
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) (not available in English)

Removing ticks from people and animals

  • Because tick bites often go unnoticed, you should check your body and clothing for ticks after spending time outdoors.
  • Pets (e.g. dogs, cats or horses) should also be checked for ticks.
  • You should remove any ticks that you find as soon as possible. The best way to do this is to use fine-tipped tweezers or special tick pincers to grip the tick as close to the surface of the skin as possible and then pull directly upwards with steady, even pressure. Afterwards, disinfect the bite area and note the date.
  • If you experience fever or any other symptoms after being bitten by a tick, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Ticks! What should I do? An app can help.

The app provided by the Zurich University of Applied Sciences will help you protect yourself against tick bites or tell you what to do after a tick bite. It is available for iOS and Android.

Also worth knowing

By law, a tick bite is deemed an accident. Accordingly, you should report the bite to your accident insurance provider if you have to seek medical treatment.