This is one of the so-called Hyalomma ‘super ticks’ which have been found in Germany
A TICK capable of carrying killer Ebola-like viruses has been found in the UK after spreading across Europe, health officials say.
The blood-sucking Hyalomma rufipes tick is usually only found in Africa, Asia and parts of southern Europe.
But Public Health England says that one, which was 10 times larger than average, was discovered in Dorset last year.
Tests found the creature was carrying Rickettsia spotted fever, which can cause headaches, cramps and blisters in humans.
But the ticks are also known to carry the deadly Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus (CCHF) – a deadly disease dubbed the “next Ebola.”
The horrific virus, which is also known as Congo Fever, results in death in around two fifths of all cases – and there are no proven vaccines available to prevent it.
Those unlucky enough to catch the disease often suffer from internal bleeding, before organ failure strikes down the sufferer.
Ebola is also categorised as a hemorrhagic fever virus, according to the World Health Organisation.
A recent outbreak of the disease in Uganda has left two people dead, including a five-year-old boy, while nearly 1,400 have died in Congo since August.
Tick found in Dorset
The tick was removed from a horse by a vet at The Barn Equine Surgery in Wimborne, Dorset, last September and sent to PHE for analysis.
Kayleigh Hansford, who led the agency’s tick surveillance team, writing in the journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, said:
“This is the first time Hyalomma rufipes has been reported in the United Kingdom.
“The lack of travel by the horse – or any in-contact horses – suggests that this could also be the first evidence of successful moulting of a Hyalomma nymph in the UK.”
She said it is suspected that the tick hitched a ride on a migratory bird before landing in the UK.
Neither the infested horse, nor other horses in the stable had travelled anywhere and no further ticks were detected on any of the horses.
It is thought the tick probably travelled on a swallow because they tend to nest in the stables of horses and migrate from Africa to the UK for summer.
‘Threat to public health’
The worrying find could “present a threat to public health in the UK”, the PHE said.
It’s not known whether any more of the ticks have been found in Britain this year, but so far there have been six reported cases in Germany.
Experts in Munich believe the bugs have mutated to survive cold winters – and don’t believe they could have been brought to the country by birds.
Dr Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim, said:
“If the development cycle is taken into account, this cannot be the case here, as the ticks would have had to have been introduced at a time where the migratory birds had not even arrived.
“According to the latest evidence, we have to presume that these animals are able to survive the winters in Germany.”
But he also pointed out that this does not mean that the Hyalomma are home grown.
What is Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever?
Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is a widespread disease caused by a tick-borne virus.
It’s usually carried by a wide range of wild and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats.
The virus is transmitted to people either by tick bites or through contact with infected animal blood.
The majority of cases have occurred in people involved in the livestock industry, such as agricultural workers, slaughterhouse workers and veterinarians.
Human-to-human transmission can occur resulting from close contact with the blood, organs or bodily fluids of someone infected.
Signs and symptoms
The time between catching the infection and symptoms appearing is usually one to three days.
Onset of symptoms is sudden and can include:
- Muscle ache
- Neck pain
- Sore eyes
- Stomach pain
- Sore throat
- Sharp mood swings
After two to four days, the agitation may be replaced by sleepiness, depression and the stomach pain may have moved.
Other clinical signs include fast heart rate, enlarged lymph nodes and a petechial rash – caused by bleeding into the skin – on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth and throat, and on the skin.
There is usually evidence of hepatitis, and severely ill patients may experience rapid kidney deterioration, sudden liver failure or pulmonary failure after the fifth day of illness.
Mortality rate is 30 per cent, with death occurring in the second week of illness.
In patients who recover, improvement generally begins on the ninth or tenth day after the onset of illness.
Source: World Health Organisation
Dr Mackenstedt added:
“For the population to expand, a male and a female tick would have to find each other. This is very difficult with such a small number.”
However, five of the Hyalomma ticks were found on a horse at a stables, meaning there is the possibility of a possible pairing – and as a result, the emergence of an independent population.
Last year, German scientists warned about several tropical ticks living in the country – thought to be because of rising temperatures.
Scientists registered a total of seven specimens of the genus Hyalomma in Lower Saxony and Hesse in August 2018.
Meanwhile only two tropical ticks have been found in Germany before, one in 2015 and one in 2017.
The Hyalomma ticks are very noticeable and can grow to as long as 2cm, substantially larger than the local common wood tick.
The massive Hyalomma tick, right, compared to a normal-sized deer tick
Central European News
They are recognised by their unusual size and their striped legs.
Hyalomma originated from Iran or the southern part of the former Soviet Union and spread into Asia, the Middle East, southern Europe, and Africa.
Tick bites can cause a number of diseases which in some cases can be fatal such tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease.
Hyalomma species can also carry Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, which has already claimed one Brit victim back in 2012.
The 38-year-old man died hours after returning from a wedding in Afghanistan.
For more on the Monster Tick & CCHF: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/08/19/monster-ticks-found-in-germany-threaten-europe-with-deadly-disease-crimean-congo-fever/ The one within this link is H. marginatum.
H. rufipes on the UK horse: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/04/11/african-tick-found-on-untraveled-u-k-horse/