Health officials have confirmed that ticks infected with tick borne encephalitis have been found in a small number of areas in England, including Hampshire, Dorset and Norfolk. The virus, carried by ticks, is common in many parts of the world, but until now no cases were confirmed in the UK.
The risk of a tick bite transmitting tick borne encephalitis is very low - only one person is confirmed to have been infected in England so far, in 2022, but the tick species which carries the virus is widespread in the UK.
Tick borne encephalitis is a viral disease that attacks the nervous system and can result in serious meningitis, brain inflammation and death. The incubation time is 6-14 days, and although most people do not develop symptoms, swelling to the brain is possible. The UK Health Security Agency has recommended changes to testing in hospital and enhanced surveillance for the virus is now being carried out in England and Scotland.
At some point most hill walkers are likely to have a close encounter with a tick. While a bite is generally harmless, it is possible that ticks carry and transmit diseases to humans, including lyme disease as well as tick borne encephalitis. Not all ticks carry disease, and simply being bitten by a tick does not mean you’ll contract it, but the BMC recommends taking steps to reduce the likelihood of a bite, and knowing how to safely remove a tick.
Find out more in our article Ticks & How To Deal With Them