Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) was first detected in ticks in the UK. The findings are part of ongoing research by Public Health England (PHE) and Emerging and Zoonotic Infections National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Department of Health Research at the University of Liverpool.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a tick-borne infection that is endemic in continental Europe and Scandinavia, as well as in Asia.
Most people who get TBE will not have any symptoms – although they can cause flu-like symptoms, and in a small number of cases they can progress to a more serious central nervous system disease.
The virus was detected in a small number of ticks in Thetford Forest and in the area between Hampshire and Dorset. Further work is underway to identify the distribution of TBEV infected populations.
Earlier this year, a European guest fell ill after a tick bite in the New Forest area. This is considered a highly likely case of TBE. A patient who was reported to PHE via the European Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) has since recovered completely.
To date, no other TBE cases have been identified that are likely to have been acquired in the UK. TBEV risk is currently rated as very low in the general population.
Dr. Nick Phin, deputy director of the National Infections Service, Public Health England, said:
Tick-borne encephalitis virus, which is endemic in many European countries, was first detected in a very small number of ticks at 2 locations in England. These are early research results and indicate the need for further work, but the risk to the general public is currently assessed as very low.
Ticks carry many infections, including Lyme disease, which is why we remind people to be "aware of the tick" and take precautions, especially when visiting or working in areas with high grass, such as forests, heaths and parks.
Contact your GP or dial 111 if you start to feel unwell with flu-like symptoms after a tick bite.
Lyme disease remains the most common tick-borne infection in the UK, and the risk of acquiring Lyme disease is far greater than the risk of acquiring TBEV.
Ticks occur throughout the year – but they are most active from spring to autumn.
The risk of tick bites and the prevention of Lyme disease provides advice on tick prevention measures for society.