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  1. ITV Report

British conservationist 'critically ill' after mosquito bite

Dr Sophie Williams is currently in a coma after a mosquito bite

A conservationist from North Yorkshire is a coma after falling critically ill when she contracted a rare viral brain infection after being bitten by a mosquito in China.

31-year-old Dr Sophie Williams, a lecturer in conservation science at Bangor University, North Wales, fell ill while on a botanical research trip with students from the university in early July.

Dr Williams was flown back to Britain to continue her treatment

Dr Williams fell unconscious in a remote area near the Chinese border with Vietnam, 400 miles from the city of Kunming. After her collapse, Sophie was taken to a Hospital from Yunnam province where doctors diagnosed her with the disease Japanese encephalitis.

  • Japanese encephalitis is a type of viral brain infection spread through mosquito bites
  • Mainly found in rural South East Asia, Pacific islands and the Far East, but very rare in travellers
  • Most people infected have either no symptoms, or mild symptoms that are short-lived and flu-like
  • In less than 1 in every 250 cases, the infection can spread to the brain causing seizures and paralysis
  • One in three people with serious symptoms will die, with many survivors left permanently brain damaged

Source: NHS

Dr Williams was transferred to a specialist hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, where her parents, Mike and Pauline, and her partner, Robert, flew out to be at her bedside. She was then flown home to Britain to continue her treatment in Liverpool.

Sophie was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately contacted the nasty disease. She was vibrant and passionate about her conservation work.

– Mike Williams, Sophie's father
Dr Williams contracted a rare viral brain disease following a mosquito bite

There is currently no cure for Japanese encephalitis, which is passed from animals to mosquitos, although the disease can not be spread from person to person. According to the NHS, up to one in every three people who develop more serious symptoms will die, and many of those who survive are left with permanent brain damage.