First published on 04 April 2023
- Conditions and diseases
The report that a probable* human case of tick-borne encephalitis is likely to have been acquired in the Loch Earn area of Scotland in 2022, has emphasised the importance of avoiding getting bitten by ticks. Public Health Scotland (PHS) is working with NHS Boards and partners to increase awareness of ticks and tick bite prevention, and enhance the surveillance of tick-borne encephalitis in Scotland.
Tick-borne encephalitis occurs across the world, including many parts of Europe. No other cases of confirmed or probable tick-borne encephalitis virus infection likely to have been acquired in Scotland have been identified. Tick-borne encephalitis virus infection (including imported cases) is very rare in people in the UK, although it has been confirmed in ticks in three locations in England since 2019.
The risk of acquiring the tick-borne encephalitis virus infection in Scotland is currently assessed as very low for the general population and at the current time believed to be restricted to this small geographic area in Scotland.
Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science and Medical Director at Public Health Scotland, said:
“While the risk of acquiring tick-borne encephalitis in Scotland is very low, we know that ticks can cause other infections, such as Lyme disease.
“We would encourage everyone to familiarise themselves with the steps we can all take to avoid bugs and germs outdoors. This is particularly important as Spring approaches, and we begin to spend more time outdoors. Being tick aware, trying to avoid being bitten by ticks and removing any ticks that do bite as quickly as possible, are all important precautions.”
More information about ticks, including prevention and removal is available on the NHS Inform website.
*It is not possible to determine conclusively if this was tick-borne encephalitis or louping ill virus infection – two very closely related conditions but with different patterns of infection.
More about tick-borne encephalitis and louping ill virus
Tick-borne encephalitis virus and louping ill virus are viruses that preferentially attack or affect the nervous system.
The tick-borne encephalitis virus is more likely than louping ill virus to cause human illness in endemic areas. Tick-borne encephalitis virus is mainly transmitted by the common, widely occurring tick Ixodes ricinus. Tick-borne encephalitis is mainly prevented by tick avoidance and by vaccination in some endemic areas.
Louping ill is of localised veterinary significance in the UK with sheep and grouse in upland rural areas in Scotland, England and Wales being particularly affected. Louping ill is very rare in humans, despite the potential for tick-borne transmission.
More information about the probable* human case of tick-borne encephalitis likely to have been acquired in the Loch Earn area of Scotland in 2022 is available via the HAIRS Risk Assessment.