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Lyme disease

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 17:24 UK time, Monday, 21 June 2010

Now that it's mid-summer, many of us are digging out those walking boots and picnic blankets and heading out to enjoy the great outdoors.

But there are always those pesky little bugs around. And although most of them are harmless, there's one which is spreading a nasty disease - and you need to know about it if you're spending time in the countryside.

The bug in question is the tick. It's related to the spider, it feeds on blood and it can transmit an illness called Lyme disease.

 

tick2.jpg

A tick

The ticks are tiny - just the size of a poppy seed - so they can be hard to spot on your skin.

Lyme disease affects the central nervous system - and the consequences can be very serious, as Wendy Fox discovered when the disease affected her central nervous system, causing swelling in her brain and spinal chord.

Wendy had always been a fit young woman until she was infected around ten years ago, possibly through her work at various zoos around the UK. Lyme disease left her visually impaired and paralysed from the waist down.

With warmer and wetter weather in the UK, the tick population is on the increase. And so are the cases of Lyme disease. But because the symptoms are so varied, it can be difficult to diagnose and in some instances goes undetected.

Back in 2008, Kathy Morgan from Llandeilo's life was turned upside down when she was bitten by a tick, but she didn't notice until she got lots of strange symptoms.

It took an agonising two years before she was finally diagnosed and treated with antibiotics. She's now on the mend, but wishes that doctors were more aware of the disease.

Environmental Health officers in Wales are so concerned about the increase in cases that they've launched a poster campaign to raise awareness of the disease.

And with the number of cases in the UK up by a thousand last year, Wendy Fox has set up a charity called BADA to raise awareness and offer advice.

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health suggest these precautions to prevent Lyme disease when you are out and about:

  • Keep your arms and legs covered
  • Try and stick to pathways
  • Check domestic pets for ticks
  • Check your skin and clothes for ticks
  • Wear light coloured clothing to make the ticks easier to see
  • Remove ticks properly using either a tick remover or tweezers
  • If you are worried or have any symptoms visit your GP

CIEH also point out that Lyme disease can be acquired in both urban and rural locations. Areas where you are at risk of encountering ticks include:

 

  • Woods
  • Long grass
  • Undergrowth
  • Moors and heath
  • Parks

However, people shouldn't be unduly worried because not every tick is infected and, even if it is, it doesn't necessarily mean that transmission will occur.  But by taking simple precautions you can get out and enjoy the summer.

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Thankyou for a very sensible and frank article. I say sensible with a sigh of relief, because I have recently had to present a case to fight for my treatment of Chronic Lyme, and had to submit evidence that the Borrelia bacteria CAN persist and also to prove that long term antibiotics ARE effective. With the IDSA mantra being circulated, and their ridiculous and flawed science being quoted by many insurance companies world wide, this is a daunting task, especially when you are still ill and trying to fight the disease, let alone anything else.

    If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten, or suspect you have been bitten, please make sure you are treated properly for bacterial infections...the myth that the Borrelia spirochete that causes Lyme is "hard to catch and easy to cure" simply isn't true and it is a very complex pathogen with the ability to "hide" and evade detection.

 

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