Po­lice bosses act to pro­tect of­fi­cers from deadly ticks

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Toby McDonald

‘They are spread­ing through­out Scot­land’

PO­LICE have been is­sued with guid­ance to pre­vent them be­ing in­fected with a de­bil­i­tat­ing dis­ease spread by ticks.

Po­lice Scot­land of­fi­cers are be­ing urged to spray in­sect re­pel­lent on the stom­ach and an­kles – and tick re­movers are be­ing made avail­able.

The draw­ing pin-sized in­sects may carry the po­ten­tially fa­tal Lyme dis­ease, cases of which have grown sev­en­fold in Scot­land in less than two decades.

Now posters in po­lice sta­tions are warn­ing of­fi­cers to be on guard.

Scot­tish Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion vice chair­man David Hamil­ton said: ‘The na­ture of polic­ing is that we are of­ten in “tick ar­eas” – and there­fore it was thought a sen­si­ble thing to re­mind peo­ple and give oc­cu­pa­tional health ad­vice. It isn’t that of­fi­cers are par­tic­u­larly at high risk – ticks don’t par­tic­u­larly like po­lice of­fi­cers any more than any­one else. It is let­ting peo­ple know.’

He added that no fig­ures are kept in Scot­land of po­lice of­fi­cers who have been in­fected, but said: ‘There have been cases of of­fi­cers suf­fer­ing Lyme dis­ease else­where in the coun­try, in the UK.’

In 1996, there were fewer than 30 new cases of Lyme dis­ease in Scot­land; in 2014, there were 230.

But GPs es­ti­mate only up to 40 per cent of cases are re­ferred, so the num­bers are likely to be much higher.

Dr Dar­rel Ho-Yen, for­mer head of the Lyme Dis­ease Test­ing Ser­vice in Scot­land, be­lieves that the known num­ber of proven cases should be mul­ti­plied by ten ‘to take ac­count of wrongly di­ag­nosed cases’.

The Po­lice Scot­land posters urge of­fi­cers to check their arms and stom­ach reg­u­larly and to seek med­i­cal ad­vice if in doubt.

They warn: ‘Ticks carry dis­eases which can be trans­mit­ted to hu­mans – Lyme dis­ease can be fa­tal.

‘The num­ber of ticks car­ry­ing Lyme dis­ease is grow­ing and they are spread­ing through­out Scot­land.

‘Higher risk ar­eas are Tay­side, Grampian and High­land – but all ar­eas are af­fected.’

The posters add: ‘What to do pre­vent tick bites: Reg­u­larly in­spect ex­posed skin, par­tic­u­larly around arms and midriff. Use per­me­thrin spray, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to an­kles and midriff.

‘Ticks must be re­moved within 24 hours to re­duce po­ten­tial in­fec­tion. Early di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment is the key.’

The posters, ini­tially distributed as part of Tick Aware­ness Week last month, are dis­played within po­lice sta­tions na­tion­ally. It is un­der­stood that both in­sect re­pel­lent per­me­thrin spray and re­moval tools are avail­able for of­fi­cers to use if re­quired.

Ar­ran GP and chair­man of the Ru­ral GP As­so­ci­a­tion of Scot­land Dr David Hogg said: ‘GPs in ru­ral Scot­land see fre­quent pre­sen­ta­tions of tick bites and so far there has been a lack of con­sis­tent and help­ful guid­ance on how to man­age these cases.’

As many as 15 per cent of ticks are in­fected with the Bor­re­lia bac­terium from suck­ing the blood of wild an­i­mals and birds.

They can pass on the bug af­ter at­tach­ing them­selves to hu­mans, trig­ger­ing Lyme dis­ease.

A mild episode will pro­duce only flu-like symp­toms.

But in se­vere cases, the vic­tim can suf­fer chronic fa­tigue, palsy, de­pres­sion, paral­y­sis and heart prob­lems. It can even be fa­tal.

In 2012, Lyme dis­ease was linked to the death of Scott Beat­tie, a 43-year-old game­keeper, from Evan­ton, Ross-shire.

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