Forest visitors urged: Be tick-aware, as bugs found carrying brain virus
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
Forest visitors are being warned to protect themselves against ticks after it emerged some carrying a brain disease had been found in Thetford Forest.
Insects which could spread tick-borne encephalitis virus - which causes the brain to develop painful swelling - have been found in the forest and on the Hampshire/Dorset border.
Public Health England (PHE) is now investigating how common the infected parasites are but says the risk is currently believed to be low.
PHE health protection consultant David Edwards said: "Tick-borne encephalitis virus, which is endemic in many European countries, has been found for the first time in a very small number of ticks in two locations in England. These are early research findings and indicate the need for further work, however, the risk to the general public is currently assessed to be very low.
"Ticks carry a number of infections including Lyme disease, so we are reminding people to be 'tick aware' and take tick precautions, particularly when visiting or working in areas with long grass such as woodlands, moorlands and parks. Contact your GP or dial 111 if you begin to feel unwell with flu-like symptoms following a tick bite."
Ticks can also carry debilitating Lyme disease, which can caused joint pain and tiredness.
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Public Health England said people should walk on clearly defined paths to avoid brushing against vegetation, wear light-coloured clothes so ticks can be spotted and brushed off and carry out a tick check after spending time outdoors.
This involves looking and feeling for ticks that might be on the body, and removing ticks promptly and safely by using a tick removal tool or tweezers.
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PHE said children and pets should also be checked. Young children are commonly bitten on the head or scalp so need to be carefully checked around the neck, in and behind the ears and along the hairline.