Electronic health records from 392 volunteer veterinary premises have been used to conclude the UK canine babesiosis outbreak is under control, but needs monitoring.

Babesiosis “seems to be a rare disease, but one we need to keep an eye on”.

Published in Veterinary Record, the analysis by scientists from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) at the University of Liverpool revealed a low background level of Babesia infection in the UK.

Based on the sporadic and geographically distributed nature, these cases were most likely linked to overseas travel.

Local infection

Laboratory data also confirmed a small cluster of eight Babesia cases in the Chelmsford area of Essex, where a highly publicised outbreak was centred.

The clustering of these cases was consistent with exposure to a local infected tick population. However, since March this year, SAVSNET has seen no new diagnoses of Babesia in Chelmsford, suggesting the outbreak may be under control.

Keep recording

SAVSNET academic lead Alan Radford said: “While this is positive news, we would like to remind vets to keep Babesia in mind, especially in practices close to the outbreak where infected ticks are likely to still be active and persist in the coming years.

“This seems to be a rare disease, but one we need to keep an eye on.

“One striking finding from our analysis is ticks remain active in winter, albeit at presumably low levels. It’s therefore important we continue to monitor tick activity, and we would encourage vets and nurses across the UK to keep recording information about tick bites they treat.”

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