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Lyme disease: a nasty bug

The Yorkshire Moors, Lake District, Scottish Highlands, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, Exmoor, the New Forest, parts of Norfolk and the South Downs are all known to have a high population of ticks

July 24, 2012 | By:

If you go down to the woods today, be sure to wear long sleeves. Daniela Soave reports on a worrying increase in tick-borne Lyme Disease, and what to do if bitten

Wheat field by Zugr on Unslpash_620

Danger, beauty spot: ticks are found in rural areas, where deer and mice act as hosts

The security horror that has to be endured at airports and the rise of chic rural B&Bs – not forgetting glamping – has resulted in an upsurge of 50-somethings staying at home to enjoy the bucolic idyll. After all, what’s not to like about Frette bedlinen, power showers with upmarket toiletries, fabulous views from your bedroom window and all that countryside to yomp through.

So why aren’t there awareness campaigns about Lyme disease? Have you heard of it?

The Health Protection Agency estimates there could be up to 3,000 new cases in the UK every year. Anyone can get the disease if they are bitten by a tick that is carrying the virus. It’s something of which we should all be aware.

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The infection was first described in the mid-1970s after several cases were identified in Connecticut. The ticks that carry the disease are found in woodlands, heaths and habitats that have a high number of tick-carrying animals, such as deer, sheep and mice.

If it’s not treated, Lyme disease can cause excessive fatigue, muscle and joint ache, a troubled digestive system, severe headaches and neurological problems that can last for the rest of your life.

There is a lack of awareness about the long-term effects of being bitten, and thousands of people suffer needlessly because they didn’t know they should act quickly to treat the bite.

Disease-carrying ticks are found in rural areas in countries including the USA, Germany, France and Austria, but most importantly for us, the UK. The Yorkshire Moors, Lake District, Scottish Highlands, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, Exmoor, the New Forest, parts of Norfolk and the South Downs are all known to have a high population of ticks.

If you’ve been bitten

  • Early treatment with antibiotics is key to stopping the infection in its tracks. If you’ve been bitten, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Remove ticks with special tweezers as soon as you spot them, holding the tick close to the skin without squeezing its body.
  • Don’t use your fingers to pull off the tick, or use oils or a match to burn it off.
  • Apply antiseptic cream after you have removed one.

If you think you’ve been bitten but didn’t notice at the time, look out for an expanding, circular rash that appears two to 28 days later, accompanied by fever, fatigue and flu-like symptoms. See your doctor if you get any of those symptoms.

And, of course, if you’re going for a walk in the wilderness, use insect repellents, keep to pathways and avoid areas of thick vegetation. Wear long sleeves and trousers, and tuck those trousers into socks (not a good look but, hey, let’s be careful out there). Light-coloured clothing will help you spot the little devils. And finally, check your pets for ticks, too

Visit Lyme Disease Action or NHS Choices: Lyme disease for more information on Lyme Disease