Tick-borne encephalitis virus detected for the first time in the UK

05 November 2019

Article: 53/4403

Tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) has been detected in ticks, for the first time, in the UK. These findings form part of ongoing research by Public Health England (PHE) and the Emerging and Zoonotic Infections National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Protection Research Unit at the University of Liverpool.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is an infection spread by tick bites and is endemic in mainland Europe and Scandinavia, as well as Asia.

Most people who catch TBE will not develop any symptoms, but it can cause flu-like conditions, and in a small number of cases, may lead to more serious disease involving the central nervous system.

The virus has been detected in a small number of ticks in Thetford Forest and an area on the border between Hampshire and Dorset. Further work is under way to identify the distribution of TBEV infected tick populations.

Earlier in 2019, a European visitor became ill after being bitten by a tick in the New Forest. This is considered to be a highly probable case of tick borne encephalitis (TBE). The patient was reported to PHE through the European Early Warning and Response System (EWRS), and has since made a full recovery.

No other cases of TBE acquired in the UK have been identified and there have been no cases of TBEV in ticks or mammals in Scotland. The risk from TBEV is currently assessed as very low for the general population. 

Further information on TBE can be found on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.

Source: PHE, 29 October 2019