First case of potentially deadly infection confirmed in UK after Brit bitten

Brits are being warned to watch out for disease-carrying ticks after the first case of a potentially-deadly infection was detected in the UK.

Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) has now been acquired by a patient for the first time domestically inside the UK, leading medical bodies to urge walkers and cyclists to protect themselves.

The patient, from Yorkshire, is the first known case in the UK, with another probable case picked up in the Loch Earn area of Scotland.

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TBEV has been found in a new study Dr Helen Callaby, of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory at Porton Down and colleagues.

Dr Callaby said: "This study confirms the tick-borne encephalitis virus is present in parts of the UK where there are relevant tick and wildlife populations and may occasionally cause disease in humans.

"Physicians should consider the possibility of tick-borne encephalitis virus when patients present with unexplained encephalitis and a history of tick exposure, even if they have not travelled outside the UK, as the clinicians did in these cases."

It can cause several different illnesses from very mild to extremely severe.

At the milder end, flu-like symptoms can present while at the more severe patients can suffer from meningitis or encephalitis.

Meningitis is an infection of the central nervous system and comes with symptoms that include high fever with a headache, neck stiffness, confusion or reduced consciousness.

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Denmark’s European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) is expected to have the research presented to it later this month (April).

Usually found in northern Europe and northern Asia, it is spread by ticks or – in rarer cases – the consumption of milk that hasn’t been pasteurised.

Increasing numbers of deer in the UK have been labelled as one of the primary causes for a growing number of ticks

Despite two possible cases being detected in the UK in 2019 and 2020, until now it has never been confirmed to have been caught in this country.

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It is assumed by researchers at this point that the UK’s case is the European subtype which is associated with milder disease.

This sees around 20 per cent to 30 per cent of patients experiencing clinical illness.

Vaccines will protect for a limited time – there is no cure for the condition.

Dr Callaby added: "Although the risk to the general public is very low, it is important for people to take precautions to protect themselves from tick bites, such as covering their ankles and legs, applying insect repellent and checking clothes and your body for ticks, particularly when visiting areas with long grass such as woods, moorlands and parks."


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