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Tick-borne encephalitis virus detected in Thetford Forest

Public Health England says the tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus has been found in two parts of England for the first time, with one of those being Thetford Forest.

The virus was detected in a small number of ticks in the forest and an area on the border between Hampshire and Dorset during surveillance work.

TBE is an infection spread by tick bites and is endemic in mainland Europe and Scandinavia, as well as Asia and most people who catch it will not have any symptoms - though it can cause flu-like symptoms, and in a small number of cases can progress to more serious disease involving the central nervous system.

A tick on human skin.(20387791)
A tick on human skin.(20387791)

Dr Nick Phin, Deputy Director of the National Infections Service, 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.

"Ticks carry a number of infections including Lyme disease, so 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."

Earlier this year a European visitor became ill after being bitten by a tick in the New Forest area.

Public Health England said though this was considered to be a highly probable case of TBE The patient, who was reported to them through the European Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), has since made a full recovery.

To date, no other cases of TBE have been considered likely to have been acquired in the UK. The risk from it is currently assessed as very low for the general population.

Lyme disease remains the most common tick borne infection in the UK, and the risk of acquiring Lyme substantially outweighs that of acquiring TBEV.

If you feel unwell with flu-like symptoms following a tick bite, Public Health England has suggested calling your GP or dialling 111.

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