Rare tick-borne infections diagnosed in England

 

Public Health England (PHE) can confirm the diagnosis of a case of babesiosis and a probable case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) in England. This is the first record of a UK-acquired case of babesiosis and the second case of TBE being acquired in the UK.

 

Babesiosis is caused by a parasite which infects red blood cells whilst TBE is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Both are rare infections spread by the bite from an infected tick.

 

Both patients have been transferred to hospital, where they are receiving appropriate treatment and supportive care.

 

PHE regularly undertakes work to understand the potential risks of tick-borne infections in England. This year, PHE has surveyed sites in Devon close to where the person with babesiosis lives, collecting and testing hundreds of ticks – all tested negative for the parasite which causes babesiosis.

 

PHE has tested deer blood samples from Hampshire in areas near to where the person with probable TBE lives and they have shown evidence of likely TBE virus infection, which matches similar results found in 2019.

 

The risk of babesiosis or TBE for the general public is very low. However, a number of infections can develop following a tick bite, including Lyme disease, and there are things we can all do to reduce our risk of being bitten by ticks while enjoying the outdoors this summer.

 

Dr Katherine Russell, Consultant in the Emerging Infections and Zoonoses team at PHE, said:

 

“It is important to emphasise that cases of babesiosis and TBE in England are rare and the risk of being infected remains very low. Lyme disease remains the most common tick-borne infection in England.

 

“Ticks are most active between spring and autumn, so it is sensible to take some precautions to avoid being bitten when enjoying the outdoors. Seek medical advice if you start to feel unwell after a tick bite.”

 

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