As a travel nurse based in London, I was concerned to hear the recent warning from health officials about the spread of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) virus in several parts of the country. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has confirmed three cases of TBE virus in patients in Yorkshire, Norfolk, and on the border of Hampshire and Dorset. Further tests on ticks across the country have found that the disease, which was commonly found in parts of Europe and Asia until now, is now present in the UK. The experts have warned that it is unlikely that TBE virus will disappear, so it’s essential to establish a surveillance program.
Public health officials say the risk is low, but it’s essential for walkers to take precautions and seek medical help if they fall ill after being bitten, especially if by a tick.
As a clinic that specialises in travel, we are used to urging everyone to take precautions to protect themselves from tick bites anyway, but this news reinforces the importance of doing this at home as well as when travelling abroad. It is essential to cover your ankles and legs, apply insect repellent, and check clothes and your body for ticks, particularly when visiting areas with long grass such as woods, moorlands, and parks.
In most cases the TBE virus typically causes mild flu-like symptoms, but it can also lead to severe infection in the central nervous system resulting in meningitis or encephalitis a high fever with headache, neck stiffness, confusion, or reduced consciousness, and long-term impairment.
As a travel nurse, I think it is really important to educate people about the symptoms of TBE to encourage them to seek medical help immediately if they experience any of these symptoms, but also to emphasise the fact that infections are preventable.
Ticks are becoming more common in parts of the UK, mainly due to increasing deer numbers. They live in undergrowth and latch on to humans when they walk through long grass. It is thought infected ticks may have arrived in the UK via migrating birds. Scientists had suspected the virus had arrived in the UK in 2019, following a couple of cases, but complexities involved in testing meant these could not be confirmed.
It’s crucial to emphasise the significance of vaccination for individuals who are considered of a higher risk. You are much more likely to catch TBE if you work outdoors or if you enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, dog-walking, countryside rambling and even jogging. Children playing outside may be especially vulnerable.
Vaccines can provide protection, and as there is currently no known cure for tick-borne encephalitis virus, those individuals who would be considered at higher risk are advised to be vaccinated as a precaution.
It’s worth noting that a vaccine is used routinely in areas of high incidence in Europe, and its advisable to consider vaccination for individuals with outdoor occupations in regions where the virus is prevalent.
For the general public the risk of contracting TBE is relatively low. Therefore, it’s essential to educate people about TBE and encourage them to take precautions to protect themselves from tick bites, particularly when travelling to areas where the virus is found.
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SPRING IS UPON US!
A time of longer days, shorter nights, flowers in bloom, and warmer weather allowing us to spend much more time enjoying the great outdoors.
This year, March 26th marks the start of British Summer Time when the clock springs forward 1 hour, increasing daylight, prolonging our evenings and our transition to Summer begins.
Spring is the time of year when we emerge from our winter hibernation and seek more time in the fresh air, the outdoors, in nature and with friends and family.
There are so many health benefits that Spring has on our physical and mental well-being.
But in what ways specifically is Spring good for our health?
1. Spring makes us feel more energised
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the warm sunshine on our skin after a long, cold winter.
This small act of nature, in general, makes us feel more upbeat and positive and can quite literally give us a “spring in our step!”. Exposure to natural light is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin is associated with boosting mood and helping a person feel calm and focused with a more optimistic outlook to life.
With sunlight and sunshine increasing, spring is a natural positive energiser.
2. Spring weather encourages us to be more active
With the weather improving and the temperature rising it encourages us to get outdoors and be more active. That doesn’t mean we’re all inspired to run a marathon, but time outdoors is good for your physical and mental health.
Time in the fresh air can really help you to switch off from your daily stresses, reduce your blood pressure and improve your mood.
Spring encourages us to take up a new sport, go out for walks and spend more time being active.
3. Spring sunshine tops up our vitamin D
Getting enough vitamin D is essential for the typical growth and development of our bones, teeth and muscle health, as well as improving our resistance to certain diseases.
Extra daylight gives you more time to spend outside and soak up the nutrients from the sunshine. In Spring and Summer, most people are able to make all the vitamin D they need from the sunlight on their skin without the need for supplements.
4. Spring encourages us to clean our home
Spring is the perfect time of year to air out our homes, clean out the grime that has built up over the winter and make a fresh, clean start.
There are many health benefits to giving your house a deep spring clean, such as:
- Reducing your risk of allergies and asthma from the accumulation of dust or pet dander.
- By removing germs and bacteria, especially from hard-to-reach places, you are reducing your risk of getting sick in general.
- Visual clutter leads to mental clutter; so, doing a big tidy-up should see improvements in your mental health and even increase your productivity.
Is it time to spring clean your health?
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