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PHE records first UK-acquired case of life-threatening tick-borne disease

Public Health England has recorded the first UK-acquired case of a rare life-threatening illness spread by tick.

The patient with babesiosis, which infects red blood cells, is being treated in hospital.

At the same time, PHE has also recorded a probably case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), which would be the second-ever UK-acquired case.

The patient with TBE, which is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system, was also hospitalised.

PHE said patients should contact their GP ‘promptly’ if the ‘begin to feel unwell’ rembembering to ‘tell them you were bitten by a tick or recently spent time outdoors’.

They stressed that these infections were rare but said people could also be infected by Lyme disease via tick bites.

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.’

Last year, NICE guidance urged GPs to diagnose and treat lyme disease on the basis of the characteristic rash alone.