Brain illness spread by ticks has reached UK

By Michelle Roberts
Health editor, BBC News online

Image copyright GETTY IMAGES Tick

An infectious disease that can harm the brain and is spread to people by tick bites has been identified in ticks in the UK for the first time.

Public Health England (PHE) says it has confirmed cases of tick-borne encephalitis virus in ticks from two parts of England – Thetford Forest and an area on the Hampshire-Dorset border.

PHE says the risk to people is still “very low”.

It is monitoring the situation to check how common the infected ticks may be.

What is it?

A tick is a tiny, spider-like creature that lives in undergrowth and on animals, including deer and dogs.

People who spend time walking in countryside areas where infected ticks can be found are at risk of being bitten and catching diseases they carry.

Tick-borne encephalitis virus is already circulating in mainland Europe and Scandinavia, as well as Asia.

Evidence now shows it has reached the UK.

How it got here is less clear. Experts say infected ticks may have hitched a ride on migratory birds.

Earlier this year, a European visitor, who has since recovered, became ill after being bitten by a tick while in the New Forest area, Public Health England says.

Further investigations revealed infected ticks were present in two locations in England.

Should I worry?

Ticks are becoming more common across many parts of the UK, largely due to increasing deer numbers. Being bitten by one doesn’t necessarily mean you will get sick.

Dr Nick Phin, from Public Health England, said:

”These are early research findings and indicate the need for further work. However, the risk to the general public is currently assessed to be very low.”

Most people who catch the virus will have no or only mild flu-like symptoms. But the disease can progress to affect the brain and central nervous system and can sometimes be fatal.

Ticks can also carry other diseases that can make people ill including Lyme disease.

Dr Phin said:

“We are reminding people to be ‘tick aware’ and take tick precautions, particularly when visiting or working in areas with long grass such as woodlands, moorlands and parks.”

What should I do?

  • To reduce the risk of being bitten, cover your skin, tuck your trousers into your socks, use insect repellent and stick to paths
  • If you are bitten, remove the tick with fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal tool found in chemists
  • Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water
  • You should go to your GP if you think you may have been bitten by a tick in the past month and develop flu-like symptoms or a circular red rash
    Ticks feed on the blood of animals and people.

They cannot jump or fly but live in vegetation and wait for a passing animal or human to climb on to.



They can’t jump or fly but they can BLOW IN THE WIND.  One advocate told me ticks blew into her swimming pool. I’ve had others tell me they somehow blow or drop from trees onto clothes on laundry lines.  Tick researchers are often so myopic in their work they don’t believe real life stories of people.  It’s truly a shame as people are being bitten in ways they are told is impossible, yet it’s happening all the time and is far from rare.

For more:

Here in the U.S. Powassan Virus is mainly responsible for encephalitis; however, this stuff is moving around unabated.  It is underreported and has caused numerous deaths.  

For more on Powassan:

It recently killed a former U.S. Senator:

Coppe Lab out of Wisconsin emphatically states Powassan is NOT rare:  Please read the following excerpt by Coppe Lab here in Wisconsin,

For the last two years, Coppe Laboratories has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources to dispelling the myth that infection with Powassan virus, a virus transmitted by tick bite, is rare. The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) reports only 100 cases of Powassan virus infection in the United States in the last 10 years. Indeed, that statistic gives the illusion that Powassan infection is rare. However, did you know that the only infections reported to CDC are those that are life-threatening, particularly cases causing severe inflammation of the brain like the case reported in LiveScience? Coppe has published three new papers in the last year that clearly show Powassan virus infection is not rare are at all,and until testing for this virus is included as part of tick-borne disease screening panels infections will continue to be underreported. Coppe’s Powassan Guide, which can be downloaded from the website, summarizes the findings from both tick and human Powassan prevalence studies, as well as defining the patient populations that would benefit most from Powassan testing.