Warning as tick diseases on rise

May 10, 2007

BBC Online, 10 May 2007:

The public has been warned to take extra precautions against ticks as the warm weather heralds a peak in numbers of the blood-sucking parasites

It follows a huge rise in cases of Lyme Disease in Scotland and encephalitis amongst travellers to mainland Europe, spread by ticks.

Both infections are severely debilitating and can be fatal.

A decade ago there were just 10 cases of Lyme Disease in Scotland, but last year that figure had risen to 177.

n mainland Europe, tick-borne encephalitis is also on the rise and is now endemic in 27 countries.

 Make sure you know about bite prevention, how to look out for the early symptoms and remember to seek advice

Tick Alert spokesman

The advice to anyone heading into the countryside is to wear insect repellent and long trousers if possible and to check themselves thoroughly afterwards.

Ticks should be removed by gripping them close to the skin with tweezers and pulling backwards without jerking or twisting.

They are common in woodland, heath land and in particular areas in Scotland where deer graze. More recently they have also been found in urban parks.

A spokesman for the Tick Alert campaign said: "Ticks are second only to mosquitoes for carrying disease to humans.

"Travellers and holidaymakers visiting rural areas are at risk from tick bites, but also when spending time in public spaces including beer gardens, picnic spots and parks and gardens.

"Make sure you know about bite prevention, how to look out for the early symptoms and remember to seek advice well before your travel date."

  • Wear trousers tucked into socks
  • Use insect repellent
  • Check yourself thoroughly
  • Check warm folds of the skin
  • Carefully remove with tweezers
  • Never burn off
  • Do not try to drown in Vaseline
  • Be aware of favoured habitats

Lyme disease varies widely but can include a rash and flu-like symptoms in its initial stage, followed by the possibility of musculoskeletal, arthritic, neurological, psychiatric and cardiac problems.

Most cases of Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics, especially if treatment is begun early in the course of illness.

Katrina Anderson, from Edinburgh, became ill after she was bitten by a tick in 1991.

She was misdiagnosed by her GP who blamed ME for her chronic fatigue and it took another two years before she was told by a specialist that she had contracted Lyme disease.

Ms Anderson said: "At the time I was actually very ill. I became very flu-like with muscle pains, constant headaches.

"It was like having a virus. It's like a hidden illness. You don't actually see what the person is suffering from. It can affect all aspects of your nervous system."

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