HEALTH officials have issued warnings over a serious tick-borne disease after a confirmed case in the UK.
Often associated with debilitating Lyme disease, a case of potentially fatal encephalitis has been registered with a joint UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Defra committee.
The confirmed case came last year in Yorkshire, with a second instance deemed as ‘probable’ near Loch Earn in Scotland, also in 2022.
The two agencies also say there have been reports of further potential cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBEV) in Hampshire, Dorset and Norfolk.
Although rare, encephalitis is a condition which causes the brain to become swollen and can be life-threatening if not treated quickly.
Symptoms of encephalitis…
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), TBEV is common throughout most of Europe, although UK health officials are keen to stress the risk of contracting TBEV is considered low.
“Tick-borne encephalitis virus was reported in ticks in Thetford Forest in 2019 and today’s update would suggest that it has now become established at other sites and caused sporadic disease in people,” said Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading.
“Genetically the UK viruses have been close to European or Scandinavian strains so they may have originally arrived from the near continent in ticks attached to birds.
“The virus is found naturally in some ticks and gets transferred to a person if they are bitten (only if the tick is infected), usually on bare arms and legs whilst walking through undergrowth. Wearing appropriate clothing essentially removes the risk.”
Prof Jones told the Independent: “Now here, it’s unlikely that TBEV will disappear, but the general threat level is very low and there is no reason to suppose cases in people will be any more than sporadic in nature.
“A vaccine is used in areas of high incidence in Europe and could be considered here for individuals with outdoor occupations in areas where the virus is found.
“For the general public however the risk is minimal.”