Police bosses act to protect officers from deadly ticks
‘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.