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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

African Tick Bite Fever

Introduction

African tick bite feveris a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of ‘tropical/South African bont’ ticks in sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean.

Amblyomma Variegatum Female Male     Amblyomma Variegatum Female Engorged

The Illness

Symptoms start 5 to 10 days after a tick bite with fever, headache, tiredness and muscle pains.  The site of the tick bite becomes black with an area of redness around it.  Often more than one bite site is visible but sometimes the bite site cannot be seen. Most, but not all, people also develop a widespread rash.  The infection is usually not severe and no deaths have been recorded.

Treatment

Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.

Recommendations for Travellers

There is no vaccine against African Tick Bite Fever.

Travellers to rural parts of sub Saharan Africa and the Caribbean are at risk, including participating in walking Safaris.  The tropical and South African bont ticks are aggressive and seek out prey.  Travellers should take precautions against tick bite by:

  • Wearing long sleeved tops and long trousers impregnated with permethrim based insecticides.  Trousers should be tucked into socks and close toed shoes worn.
  • 30-50% DEET insect repellent should be applied to all exposed skin.
  • The skin should be inspected daily for ticks, which may brush onto clothing and then crawl to warm moist areas usually under the arms, behind knees and the groin which should be checked.
  • Any ticks seen should be removed as quickly as possible by grasping the tick as near to the skin surface as possible and applying gentle traction (without twisting).
  • When removing a tick it is important to remove the mouthparts as this is where infection is transmitted.

If symptoms develop after a bite, or the bite site turns black, medical attention should be sought.

 

 

 

 

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