More TBE cases expected in Sweden this winter

The currently mild weather is favourable for ticks. As a result, more cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) are expected this winter, the Swedish Public Health Agency (FHM) warns.

In the last five years, there has been a substantial increase in TBE cases in Sweden. Photo by Erik Karits / Unsplash

“If it (note: the weather) continues to be this mild, we can count on more TBE cases coming in,” Marika Hjertqvist, an epidemiologist at the Public Health Agency, says.

In the last five years, the FHM has seen a substantial increase in TBE cases – a trend that looks set to continue.

Number of cases on the rise

“We have looked at how climate change may affect infectious diseases in the future, and we have seen that TBE has already increased very much,” Hjertqvist says, adding that other factors can also explain the increase.

There are recommendations in place on TBE vaccination for people who live or often stay in areas with a high risk of infection.

“Ticks crawl around on your body before they bite, and in some cases, you can catch them before they bite you,” Hjertqvist says.

The regions that usually have the highest number of TBE cases are Sörmland and Uppsala, according to the FHM.

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Situation in Sweden’s hospitals ‘terrible and completely unacceptable’: watchdog

Sweden's health watchdog has sounded the alarm over the "terrible, completely unacceptable" state of hospital care, with patients left for hours in their own urine and faeces, not given sufficient food or water, and sent home despite being in urgent need of treatment.

Situation in Sweden's hospitals 'terrible and completely unacceptable': watchdog

The Health and Social Care Inspectorate (Ivo) on Thursday announced the first part of the conclusions of a national inspection of Swedish healthcare launched in January 2022, in which it inspected 27 hospitals, covering all 21 of the country’s regional health authorities. 

Peder Carlsson, the unit chief at Ivo who led the inspection, told a press conference that the watchdog had uncovered serious shortcomings in Swedish healthcare with severe personnel shortages leaving patients receiving unacceptable treatment. 

“Patients do not get an acceptable amount of food, fluids or basic treatment, and according to our information, patients can be required to lie for several hours in their own faeces and urine,” Swedish news agency TT quoted Carlsson as saying.

“This is a terrible situation, totally unacceptable and it is particularly striking that this is happening in the hospitals we have in our country.” 

Carlsson said half of the hospitals investigated said that they were every week forced to send people home from emergency care who actually should have been admitted. 

“We have examples of patients with sepsis who are sent home instead of being admitted and given antibiotics,” he said. 

Half of the hospitals’ emergency departments also said that personnel were not able to give patients the right medicine at the right time. 

In its conclusions, the inspectorate said that the shortage of hospital beds had been allowed to go too far, leading to so-called överbeläggning, where patients are cared for in hospital corridors, waiting rooms and other places not designed for healthcare, and utlokaliseringar, where patients are cared for in a hospital unit that lacks the specific competence to treat their illness or injury. 

The inspectorate has threatened four separate hospitals, Uppsala University Hospital, Sundsvall Hospital, Sunderby Hospital and the Central Hospital in Växjö, with fines if they do not take urgent measures to improve the situation. 

Sweden’s health minister Acko Ankarberg Johansson on Thursday morning ordered the National Board of Health and Welfare to develop proposals for a “national plan for developing competence in healthcare”.