England’s players have been warned about the “truly devastating consequences” of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) given its prevalence in the area around their World Cup base.
Gareth Southgate’s men jet off to Russia on Tuesday for this summer’s tournament, where they will be based at the for RestMix Club in Repino on the outskirts of St Petersburg.
However, the remote area Harry Kane and co will call home during the World Cup comes with a health risk, as do some of the places England fans may visit.
Russia has the highest number of reported TBE cases globally and Repino is considered a moderately high zone of a virus the Encephalitis Society calls a “serious health concern”.
Ava Easton, chief executive of the Encephalitis Society, stated: “Football fans will likely be travelling to sites in Russia where there is a risk of TBE, such as areas like Repino where the England team will be based, and in Nizhny Novgorod for their second game, where the risk is even higher than in Repino.
Easton says the risk of TBE is increased for those undergoing outdoor activities in forested or grassy areas, with an infected bite potentially resulting “in a severe illness”.
The NHS say “the risk of getting seriously ill is low” even if bitten, but the viral infection that attacks the central nervous system can cause encephalitis, meningitis or inflammation of the tissues that surround the brain or spinal cord.
Long-term complications include convulsions and paralysis, with the most severe cases leading to death.
The annual number of TBE cases in Russia that are severe enough to require hospitalisation ranges from 5,500 to 10,000.
The Football Association said it will be taking all necessary precautions during England’s stay in Russia.
Advice on the German FA website to fans said getting a TBE vaccination before they travel to Russia was “important”.
What is TBE?
The Encephalitis Society describes TBE as “a type of viral encephalitis caused by a virus that is spread by ticks”. The blood-sucking parasites can pass it on by biting humans.
Why would it be a problem at the World Cup?
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Russia has the largest number of reported cases in the world.
Most cases occur between April and November, with peaks in early and late summer. Fans could be exposed to infected ticks if they visit a TBE risk area, while there is an increased risk if doing sightseeing or outdoor activities in forested or grassy areas.
What happens if someone is infected by TBE?
There are normally two phases to the European type of TBE.
The first consists of a flu-like illness and then, after a week of no symptoms, the second phase involves the brain and nerves. The severity of the second phase varies between patients.
What are the consequences of TBE?
The Encephalitis Society says less than 2% may die from TBE — this is more common in the Far Eastern type. Some recover completely while “others may have long-lasting problems such as paralysis, ataxia, headache, tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and poor memory”.
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