Vet Ian Wright says , despite the lurid headlines, UK vets did have lessons to learn from the discovery – for the first time in the UK – of a male Hyalomma rufipes tick on an untravelled horse.
UK vets have been urged not to entirely dismiss a “sensationally” headlined newspaper story about a new zoonotic tick threat to the country.
The article appeared online in the Daily Mail on 5 April under the headline “Tick that can carry deadly Ebola-like virus called Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is found in the UK for the first time.”
Responding to the article, Ian Wright, head of the European Scientific Counsel Companion Animal Parasites (ESCCAP) UK and Ireland said, despite the lurid headlines, UK vets did have lessons to learn from the discovery – for the first time in the UK – of a male Hyalomma rufipes tick on an untravelled horse.
The tick – which is normally found in hotter, dryer climates in Africa and Europe – had been discovered by a vet at The Barn Equine Surgery in Wimborne, Dorset last September, which was subsequently sent to Public Health England (PHE) for identification.
PHE scientists, reporting in the journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, said: “The tick tested positive for Rickettsia aeschlimannii, a spotted fever group Rickettsia linked to a number of human cases in Africa and Europe. This is the first time H rufipes has been reported in the UK, and the lack of travel by the horse (or any in-contact horses) suggests this could also be the first evidence of successful moulting of a Hyalomma nymph in the UK.”
Dr Wright said: “There is, lurking in this sensational [Daily Mail] story, an important message. First, I think any reader of the Daily Mail should have their minds put at rest. Although Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is deadly, it is not Ebola. It is only transmitted by the Hyalomma tick.
“Even if Hyalomma ticks establish [in the UK], you’re not looking at an Ebola-style epidemic, which is what is slightly implied by this article. Having said that, there was an unpleasant zoonosis rickettsial disease present, which just shows we have to be vigilant.”