Certain parts of France are also on alert for wildfires | Photo: AFP / Ludovic MARIN

Holidaymakers travelling to France have received an urgent warning about a serious disease that has had a 94% hospitalisation rate.

With the peak summer travel season underway, France is expected to receive thousands of tourists every week, especially from the UK. However, people travelling to France in the coming weeks have been told to be wary of a deadly disease, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE). Around 61 cases of the condition have been detected in the country.

Encephalitis disease in France

The disease has been detected in high numbers in the Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region with cases now being reported in the Haute-Savoie department and Ardèche department of this area. Public Health France has warned people that tick-borne encephalitis, which is a potentially fatal disease, is transmitted to humans through bites often during leisure activities in tropical wooded areas such as camping, hiking, and mushroom picking, reported Wales Online.

The nasty infection can also be transferred via contamination by consuming raw milk or cheese made from raw milk, mainly from goats or sheep. The main preventive measure is to wear protective clothing against tick bites.

However, no deaths have been reported as yet. More than a third of cases in the last two years up to May this year have resulted in meningitis, as per Public Health France.

Tick-borne encephalitis is an infection that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) in a significant proportion of cases, and 40% of these cases may lead to neurological problems for several years.

Health advisory from France

Even though the National Health Service has stated that the risk of getting tick-borne encephalitis is very low, France's health body has warned that people must be alert all the time and protect themselves from tick bites. The French organisation has also urged people to carefully inspect their bodies and that of their children after walking in rural areas or woods in widespread regions of up to 1,500 meters altitude, between spring and autumn, according to Manchester Evening News.

Public Health France has also advised travellers to stay on paths, avoid walking near tall grass, wear long trousers and use insect repellents. If a person is bit, the tick should be removed immediately, with a pair of tweezers if needed, and then clean the bite using antiseptic.

Even though vaccination is not yet recommended in France, tourists can consider taking a jab where the infection is common. It involves two injections which provide protection for about a year. Also, one must remember to take the vaccine at least a month before travelling.

After an incubation period of one or two weeks, encephalitis begins suddenly with flu-like symptoms such as high fever, headache, and chills.

More serious symptoms come on over hours, days or weeks, including:

  • confusion or disorientation
  • seizures or fits
  • changes in personality and behaviour
  • difficulty speaking
  • weakness or loss of movement in some parts of the body
  • loss of consciousness

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has once again advised travellers to get appropriate travel insurance before taking a trip to France this summer. The UK Foreign Office has also warned people during the peak travel time between July and August, they may experience longer than usual queues at ports and terminals. Therefore, travellers should be prepared for potential delays with enough food and water.

Meanwhile, with several parts of Europe already suffering because of the wildfires, some regions of southern France have also been put on high alert. A forecast of soaring temperatures and strong winds has put Bouches-du-Rhône - which includes the southern city of Marseille on the highest red alert.

Nearby sectors Vaucluse and Var are both on an orange alert for forest fires, the second highest level.