On 29th October 2019, we shared the following BBC article on our Facebook page: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-50206382?fbclid=IwAR14pY2exZCZ5ODgKZ6n6lugHJAE1LC0OJMMRsnGa9RUE7i7FrtvaT2dUFM
It was news to us at CGO Ecology that tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) had reached the UK, and that this devastating illness picked up from tick-bites is now a real threat. Any of us who works in heathland, forestry and adjacent habitats where deer are present (and therefore ticks) is now potentially at risk of contracting TBE. This is pretty awful news. We're all mindful of ticks, and especially the Lyme disease risk, and we do our best to prevent bites; but what can we do to prevent TBE?
Well, following the BBC article above, I looked into getting a TBE vaccination. I read that Boots travel clinics offer them (as do Superdrug travel clinics), and so in December 2019 I went to Boots at Castlepoint, Bournemouth, which has a travel clinic (the only branches that offer vaccinations). However, the counter staff had not heard of TBE, and even the pharmacist was unaware that TBE had reached the UK. I had to do some persuading to assure him that TBE had reached the New Forest on the Hampshire/Dorset border (a foreign tourist contracted it there in 2019), and that I needed the TBE inoculation.
Once persuaded, the pharmacist booked me into the travel clinic the same afternoon, and I paid £65 for the first of three shots of deactivated TBE virus. The second jab will be in January 2020, and the third a year later. Total cost will be £195. I'm putting it down as a business expense.
More of a concern is that nobody seems to know yet about the risk of contracting TBE in the UK. We hear lots about Lyme disease, but not TBE. Boots and Superdrug travel clinics offer TBE inoculations for travellers to foreign countries where there is a TBE risk, but you will probably find that the pharmacists are unfamiliar with the TBE risk in the UK (even in my case with a known clinical case a few miles away!). I've read more about invasive Asian hornets reaching Dorset than I have about TBE.
When purchasing the vaccination, the Boots data entry system doesn't list the UK as an option, so my pharmacist selected Japan as the TBE-risk country that I was travelling to! Even the NHS advice webpage on TBE - https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/tick-borne-encephalitis/ - has not been updated since April 2018, and does not mention TBE cases in the UK. Has anyone else heard about TBE in the UK?
Dr Chris Gleed-Owen MCIEEM is Director & Principal Ecologist of CGO Ecology Ltd