Char­i­ties warn of wors­en­ing tick prob­lem

The Oban Times - - Outdoors -

AS TICK sea­son be­gins, char­i­ties are warn­ing of the dan­gers of lyme dis­ease, a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion con­tracted via tick bites, as cases rise in the UK, Europe and North Amer­ica.

At the turn of the cen­tury there were only around 250 re­ported cases of lyme dis­ease in the UK each year, but now the gov­ern­ment es­ti­mates around 2,000 to 3,000 peo­ple con­tract it an­nu­ally – roughly eight peo­ple per day. How­ever, the char­i­ties Caud­well Lyme Co and Lyme Dis­ease UK claim the true num­ber could be around 45,000.

Early treat­ment with an­tibi­otics is gen­er­ally ef­fec­tive, but if symp­toms are not spot­ted early, the dis­ease can be life- chang­ing.

Caulwell Lyme Co ex­plains: ‘Lyme can start slowly and feel like flu, or hit peo­ple like a sledge­ham­mer. Apart from se­vere ex­haus­tion and chronic pain, it can cause life-threat­en­ing ir­reg­u­lar heartbeat, arthri­tis, en­cephali­tis (brain in­flam­ma­tion) and neu­rolog- ical prob­lems rang­ing from loss of feel­ing and paral­y­sis to men­tal con­fu­sion and mem­ory loss.

‘Sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple in the UK are suf­fer­ing chronic ill­ness af­ter catch­ing lyme dis­ease, some of whom are too ill to re­turn to work or lead a nor­mal life, while nerves can take years to heal af­ter the in­fec­tion has been cleared, and arthri­tis may never go.’

In­cu­ba­tion time is three to 30 days. The first symp­tom is usu­ally a rash, which spreads from the site of the tick bite, and is not gen­er­ally painful or itchy. There are of­ten ac­com­pa­ny­ing flu-like symp­toms.

In a small num­ber of more se­ri­ous cases, there is in­fec­tion of the ner­vous sys­tem – symp­toms in­clude vi­ral-like menin­gi­tis, fa­cial palsy and nerve dam­age. Any­one with these symp­toms who has been in a high risk area should seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

In Scot­land, lyme dis­ease is most com­monly caught in the High­lands and Is­lands, and the risk of tick bites is high­est from April to Oc­to­ber, when the ticks are most ac­tive.

Most at-risk oc­cu­pa­tions are as sheep and deer farm­ers, game­keep­ers, vets, forestry, agri­cul­tural and con­ser­va­tion work­ers, and out­door pur­suits in­struc­tors, but cy­clists, ramblers and dog-walk­ers should also be vig­i­lant too.

Last year the Univer­sity of Bris­tol’s Big Tick Pro­ject found 31 per cent of dogs checked at ran­dom dur­ing a vet visit were found to be car­ry­ing a tick.

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