Michael Nicholson, from Livingston in West Lothian, has contracted the little-known “Triple E” bug after being bitten by a mosquito in the US, his family said. It is thought the 35-year-old painter and decorator was bitten during a fishing trip in New Hampshire this summer.
Relatives said Mr Nicholson is unconscious in an Edinburgh hospital and, if he lives, is expected to be severely disabled for the rest of his life.
The virus — known as Eastern Equine Encephalitis or Triple E — is regarded as one of the most serious mosquito-borne diseases on the North American continent. It is found mainly in the eastern regions of the US and has a 35% mortality rate. Symptoms develop after three to 10 days, and include flu-like illness, inflammation of the brain, coma and death.
Michael’s sister, Sharan McKenzie, also from Livingston, said she wanted to warn other holidaymakers travelling to New England about the dangers of the bug. British tourists heading to the area are given no official warnings about the potential risk, she said.
Ms McKenzie, 38, said: “There is no cure and there is no vaccine, so all you can do is try and prevent yourself being bitten.
“You don’t think there is going to be a risk if you get bitten by a mosquito in somewhere like the US, or Spain. So we had no idea this would be so devastating. The more people know about this the better.”
Hearts supporter Mr Nicholson spent six weeks with family and friends in Rhode Island and New Hampshire this summer.
He fell ill on August 31, a day after flying home.
Within two days he had lost consciousness and was transferred to the intensive care unit of Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital.
Ms McKenzie said doctors diagnosed her brother with Triple E on September 13, telling the family his was the first case in Europe.