Urgent health warning as deadly ‘brain swelling’ virus ‘found in Scotland’
THE FIRST human case of a potentially fatal tick infection has been confirmed in the UK.
Doctors say the first domestically acquired case of tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) has been identified in a man who was bitten by ticks in Yorkshire.
And another probable human case has also been discovered in the Loch Earn area of Scotland.
Both cases are described in new research due to be presented later this month at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Denmark.
The study by Dr. Helen Callaby of the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Laboratory for Rare and Imported Pathogens at Porton Down and colleagues confirm that TBEV is now present in the UK.
The diagnosis was initially reviewed by the treating physicians and confirmed by testing at the UKHSA laboratory.
dr Callaby said: “This study confirms that tick-borne encephalitis virus is present in parts of the UK where there are relevant tick and wildlife populations and can occasionally cause disease in humans.
“Physicians should consider the possibility of tick-borne encephalitis virus when presenting patients with unexplained encephalitis and a history of tick exposure, even if they have not traveled outside the UK, as clinicians have done in these cases. “
She explained that TBEV is a flavivirus transmitted by ticks and, less commonly, by eating unpasteurized milk from infected animals.
TBEV is typically found in western and northern Europe and northern and eastern Asia.
Ticks are becoming increasingly common in parts of the UK, largely due to increasing numbers of deer. They live in the undergrowth and will cling to humans as they walk through tall grass.
dr Callaby said TBEV causes a range of diseases, from completely asymptomatic infections to mild flu-like illnesses to severe central nervous system infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.
She said the symptoms are similar to other causes of meningitis and can include a high fever with a headache, stiff neck, confusion or loss of consciousness.
TBEV is diagnosed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and serology.
The Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory (RIPL) is the only diagnostic laboratory in the UK to carry out such testing.
Prior to 2019, TBEV in humans in the UK had not been acquired domestically.
Two probable cases with compatible clinical syndromes, positive serology and no foreign exposure were reported in 2019 and 2020.
However, in these cases there was no molecular isolation of the virus, so they could not be confirmed.
The European subtype is associated with a milder disease, with 20 to 30 percent of patients having the clinical disease.
The UK cases are believed to be of the European subtype, but this has not been proven.
TBEV cases are increasing in Europe, with around 3,800 reported in 2020.
Vaccines can offer protection, but only for a limited time and there is no cure.
Infected ticks are believed to have entered the UK via migratory birds.
After alternative tick-borne complex diseases were ruled out by PCR testing, one of the confirmed TBEV cases was deemed acquired in the UK based on travel and exposure history.
dr Callaby added: “Although the risk to the general public is very low, it is important that people take precautions to protect themselves from tick bites, such as wearing B. Cover their ankles and legs, apply insect repellent, and check clothing and body for ticks, especially when visiting areas of tall grass such as forests, bogs, and parks.”
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https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/health/10472112/warning-deadly-brain-swelling-virus-found-scotland/ Urgent health warning as deadly ‘brain swelling’ virus ‘found in Scotland’