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Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus is a human pathogen that is expanding its endemic zones in Europe, emerging in previously unaffected regions. In Austria, increasing incidence in alpine regions in the west has been countered by a decline in traditional endemic areas to the east of the country.


To shed light on the cause of this disparity, we compared the temporal changes of human TBE incidences in all federal provinces of Austria with those of Lyme borreliosis (LB), which has the same tick vector and rodent reservoir.


This comparative analysis was based on the surveillance of hospitalised TBE cases by the National Reference Center for TBE and on the analysis of hospitalised LB cases from hospital discharge records across all of Austria from 2005 to 2018.


The incidences of the two diseases and their annual fluctuations were not geographically concordant. Neither the decline in TBE in the eastern lowlands nor the increase in western alpine regions is paralleled by similar changes in the incidence of LB.


The discrepancy between changes in incidence of TBE and LB support the contributions of virus-specific factors beyond the mere availability of tick vectors and/or human outdoor activity, which are a prerequisite for the transmission of both diseases. A better understanding of parameters controlling human pathogenicity and the maintenance of TBE virus in its natural vector−host cycle will generate further insights into the focal nature of TBE and can potentially improve forecasts of TBE risk on smaller regional scales.


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