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Government warns of new disease threat from ticks


Stalkers and shooters should take steps to reduce the risk of being bitten in areas where ticks thrive

Stalkers and shooters are largely aware of the risks posed by tick-borne Lyme disease, but a new health threat has emerged in the form of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE), prompting the UK Government to issue a warning. Recent reports confirm the presence of TBE in ticks found in various regions, including Thetford Forest, the Hampshire/Dorset border, the New Forest, and the North York Moors. Unlike Lyme disease, where symptoms may be more evident, TBE can be asymptomatic in some cases, making it even more challenging to detect and treat.

Those infected with TBE might experience a range of symptoms, from mild flu-like illness to severe infections characterised by a high fever, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, or reduced consciousness. The spread of TBE is largely facilitated by ticks, which are known to be carried by deer, enabling the spread of tick eggs and exacerbating the issue.

To minimize the risk of contracting TBE while outdoors in tick-prone areas, Dr. Meera Chand, deputy director at the UK Health Security Agency, advises individuals to take necessary precautions. This includes wearing protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants, using tick repellents containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing, and conducting regular tick checks on the body, clothing, pets, and outdoor gear. If ticks are found, it is essential to remove them promptly and properly to avoid further transmission.

Charles Smith Jones, a technical adviser to the British Deer Society (BDS) and a contributor to Shooting Times, acknowledges that TBE appears to be a recent arrival in the UK. He says: “While the risk of contracting the infection is considered low, the BDS appreciates any advice that raises public awareness of diseases transmitted by ticks. Vigilance and knowledge of the potential risks can help protect outdoor enthusiasts, stalkers, and shooters from the dangers of tick-borne illnesses.”

In light of this emerging threat, it is crucial for individuals to be proactive in safeguarding their health while enjoying outdoor activities in areas where ticks thrive, such as moorlands and woodlands. By staying informed and taking appropriate preventive measures, everyone can better protect themselves and help reduce the spread of tick-borne diseases like TBE.