Written by By Sarah Burnett, CNN
In recent years, virtually all of southern France and Italy have been affected by the pathogen Omicron, usually carried through rat droppings in the leaves of infected plants and trees. The pathogen can kill or seriously wound more than 100,000 people. So far, no cases of the disease have been recorded in mainland Europe.
But on Thursday, the Scottish Health Protection Agency announced that it had confirmed at least six Omicron cases in the UK, in the Highlands and Islands, North and South Uist Islands and the Western Isles. The cases are not related to previous epidemics of Omicron infections in Spain and France.
“It is a positive development and hopefully it means that we can focus on continuing the discovery and surveillance work needed to identify hotspots, and on educating the public,” said Dr. Derek Millar, head of viral diseases in Scotland’s National Public Health Laboratories, in a press release.
The latest cases include three in Wester Ross and Argyll/Monadhliath, three in Benbecula and one each in the Western Isles and South Uist.
None of the cases appear to be related to the previous outbreaks in France, the agency said. They were discovered in 2017, but only the Benbecula and North Uist cases were reported on the Thursday.
Millar warned that Omicron is difficult to detect and can spread rapidly.
“Only when Omicron is isolated from a hard root and infected root tissues or carcasses are tested does it become clear whether an outbreak is isolated or not. This is why it is so important that all residents and visitors are advised to keep rats and their droppings from homes and gardens,” Millar said.
So far, Omicron is mainly affecting not animals, but plants. It can affect the plant with a damaging effect such as its color, shape, size, or development and one has said that, without proper care, the fungus is likely to spread to flowering plants.