Health officials in the UK have issued a warning after they discovered a rare tick-borne disease. Tick-borne encephalitis is a rare illness but can be severe, causing brain swelling in some cases. The risk is weak, with only one confirmed case in England last year. However, the tick that carries the infection is quite common in the UK, so it’s worth taking precautions to avoid tick bites and knowing what to do if bitten.
According to LADbible, the UK Health Security Agency recommends changing hospital testing so doctors and nurses can pick up any cases beforehand. They are already watching more closely in Scotland and England, where there is one probable case. Health officials found the confirmed in Yorkshire, where they are testing for the virus in blood samples of people with no symptoms.
Ticks are tiny creatures that look like spiders or other small bugs. They’re primarily present in woodland and moorland and usually feed on deer. While eating, they can transmit viruses and infections onto hosts, causing diseases – such as the typical Lyme disease but the more rare tick-borne encephalitis.
Dr Meera Chand, The UK Health Security Agency’s deputy director, said the disease is ‘very uncommon in the UK’ and the general population is not currently at risk. However, it’s worth avoiding tick bites while out walking, and if bitten, then removing the tick as quickly as possible.
The UK Health Security Agency advises sticking to paths while walking, covering your skin, tucking trousers into socks, and wearing light-coloured clothing. Then ticks will be visible, and you can remove them promptly, using insect repellent and regularly checking for ticks on children and pets. Adults mostly get bitten on the legs. Children might, on the other hand, get it in the neck or on their heads.
If you get a bite, quickly removing the tick is essential. Use fine-tipped tweezers or a specific tick removal tool to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull it upwards firmly. Some of the tick’s mouthparts can break off and be left in the skin, causing infection. Then, use an antibacterial wash or soap and water on the bitten area, and watch it in the weeks after the bite to check that nothing changes. Suppose you start getting unwell, experiencing flu-like symptoms, or getting a circular red rash. In that case, you must contact the GP immediately.
Health workers have found ticks with the TBE virus in Dorset, Hampshire, and Norfolk. However, health officials have no confirmed cases except the one in Yorkshire. The rising disease could result from climate change impacting birds’ migration. Watch out for severe symptoms, such as bad headaches, sudden unexplained confusion, stiff neck, unexplained seizures, and weakness in the arms and legs. If you feel unwell after getting a tick bite, contact your doctor.
Check the full NHS advice on tick-borne encephalitis and advice on what to do if bitten.