Background - Disease morbidity of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) has been increasing over the last decades. Since the 1990s, however, no extensive seroprevalence studies on TBE in humans have been performed in Switzerland. Here we assessed the prevalence of anti-TBE virus (TBEV) antibodies among different groups of the Swiss blood donor population.
Materials and methods - The study was carried out from July 2014 to January 2015. Blood donors participating in the study (n=9,328) were asked to fill in a questionnaire relating to vaccination against or infection with different flaviviruses, and blood samples were collected. All samples were screened for the presence of anti-TBEV IgG antibodies using ELISA testing. Seropositivity rates in different groups of blood donors were compared using Chi square tests with Bonferroni correction.
Results - In 2014 and 2015, 24.6% of healthy Swiss blood donors indicated vaccination against TBE. Among vaccinated blood donors, antibody prevalence was significantly higher in younger (<40y: 85.3%) than older individuals
(≥40 to <55y: 80.0%, ≥55y: 76.7%; p=0.005). In non-vaccinated individuals, antibody prevalence was significantly higher in younger (<40y: 10.0%) than older (≥40 to <55y: 4.0%, ≥55y: 3.9%; p<0.005), male (6.8%) than female (3.7%, p<0.0001), and blood donors from endemic (7.0%) than border (6.2%) or non-endemic regions (4.2%, p<0.001). Possible asymptomatic infection, as defined by positive IgG ELISA results in blood donors indicating no vaccination against TBEV, was found in 5.6%.
Discussion - Our data importantly complement the knowledge on TBEV vaccination rates and estimate the frequency of subclinical TBE in Switzerland.
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