Public Health England has confirmed the diagnosis of a case of babesiosis and a probable case of tick-borne encephalitis in England.
This is the first record of a UK-acquired case of babesiosis and the second case of TBE being acquired in the UK.
Babesiosis is caused by a parasite which infects red blood cells, whilst TBE is a viral infection that affects the central nervous system. Both are rare infections spread by the bite from an infected tick.
Diagnosed in July, both patients were treated in hospital.
PHE regularly undertakes work to understand the potential risks of tick-borne infections in England.
It surveyed sites in Devon close to where the person with babesiosis lives, collecting and testing hundreds of ticks – all tested negative for the parasite which causes babesiosis.
PHE has tested deer blood samples from Hampshire in areas near to where the person with probable TBE lives and they have shown evidence of likely TBE virus infection, which matches similar results found in 2019.
PHE said the risk of catching babesiosis or TBE in England was very low, but it advised members of the public to seek medical attention should they experience the adverse effects of a tick bite.
Most people with babesiosis will have either no symptoms or mild symptoms of infection. However, those with weakened immune systems can become very ill and present with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, muscle ache, fatigue and jaundice.
Around two-thirds of people with TBE infections will have no symptoms either. For those that do, there are often two phases.
The first is associated with flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache and fatigue. This can then progress to a more serious second phase that involves the central nervous system and meningitis, encephalitis and paralysis.
People with flu-like symptoms after being bitten by a tick are advised to visit their GP, but advised to go straight to hospital if they develop a stiff neck and severe headache, experience pain when looking at bright lights, have a seizure, experience sudden confusion and/or develop weakness or loss of movement in any part of the body.
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.”