Scientists from Berlin’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said 2020 was a record year for TBE case numbers and blamed it on an increase in outdoor leisure activity under coronavirus conditions. They said there was now a risk of TBE infection in Germany, especially in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, in southern Hesse, in south-eastern Thuringia and in Saxony.
Individual risk areas are also located in Central Hesse, Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate and Lower Saxony.
A total of 704 TBE cases were reported in 2020 – the highest figure since data collection began in 2001.
There were 445 cases in 2019 and 583 cases the year before.
A report from the RKI said researchers were investigating if the significant increase during the coronavirus pandemic could possibly be related to a change in leisure behaviour.
TBE begins with symptoms such as headache and fever.
In a small number of those infected, after a period without symptoms, a second phase with meningitis, encephalitis or spinal cord inflammation can occur.
Doctors warned in serious cases the disease can be fatal.
Vaccination offers the most reliable protection against TBE but take-up rates in the affected regions are often still very low, according to the RKI.
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The latest health alert comes as Germany is still battling to control the spread of Covid-19.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country increased by 9,557 to 2,492,079 today while the total death toll rose by 300 to 71,804.
Business leaders have expressed dismay after Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed a gradual easing of coronavirus curbs but added an “emergency brake” to reimpose restrictions if case numbers get out of control.
The tentative reopening plan dashed any hopes of a swift rebound in consumer spending this month to end a weak first quarter on a stronger note.
The powerful BDI industry association urged the government to speed up efforts to expand vaccinations and rapid testing.
The HDE was sceptical about the possibility of shopping by appointment, noting that personnel and operating costs would probably be higher than the turnover.
Hans Peter Wollseifer, president of the association representing skilled trades, also called for faster progress on vaccination and mass testing for Covid-19.
He said: “In order to prevent the death of businesses on a broad front, economic life must be made possible again as quickly as possible.
“The decisions taken now do not do justice to this.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)