What is Lyme disease and why do we need to be aware of ticks?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by a type of bacterium that is carried by some species of ticks. Infected tick bites can infect humans.

People are more likely to come in contact with ticks while spending time outside in the green.

The potential risk of ticks and Lyme disease will not stop you from enjoying the outdoors, but you can do a variety of things to avoid bites and reduce the chances of getting infected. This blog shows what Lyme disease is, how it is treated and how we can avoid it.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection that can be spread among people when bitten by an infected tick. People are most likely to get ticks when working in the countryside or in other green areas such as forests, some urban parks or gardens.

Ticks are most active in the spring and summer months when the weather is warm but available throughout the year. About 3,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported in England each year.

In the UK, Lyme disease is an uncommon infection and can be successfully treated with a full course of antibiotics. It is most common in people who have Lyme disease, but if left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the nervous system and skin, joints or, rarely, the heart. If the nervous system or heart is affected, injectable antibiotics may be given.

Very few people treated for Lyme disease at first may develop more severe symptoms in a few months or years later, however, this usually happens if the treatment they receive is delayed or not completed. If you come in contact with Lyme disease, it is advisable to talk to your doctor if the symptoms return or do not improve.

There is no reliable evidence that Lyme disease can be transmitted by any other bite (for example from mosquitoes, flies, flies, spiders, or lice) and that it cannot be transmitted from one person to another through touch, kissing, or sexual intercourse. Infection

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

It is important to look for signs of Lyme disease, and to check yourself for ticks where they may appear after you go to the green. Quick tick removal can reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease.

Early detection of symptoms can ensure that you get the fastest diagnosis and treatment from your GP if you develop the disease. If you are bitten by an infected tick, your symptoms will usually develop 1-4 weeks after the bite, however, they can occur anytime within 3 to 30 days of exposure.

Symptoms include a diffuse round red rash, which may appear as a bull-eye rash, as shown in the figure below, as well as non-specific flu-like symptoms. Although many people associate the disease with rash, 1/3 of people do not report a visit.

Other symptoms include pain in the muscles or nerves or tingling in the face when the nerves in the muscles around the upper part of the face are affected.

If you experience symptoms after a tick bite or after spending time outside, contact your GP immediately or call NHS 111, mentioning where you were and remembering the bite.

What is increasing in the case of Lyme disease?

European research estimates that 1-5% of tick bites can lead to Lyme disease. On average, 2.5-5.1% of the tax is transmitted in England and Wales, although this range can fluctuate in different areas and over the years.

Since data collection began in 2005, there has been a general tendency for Lyme disease to increase, although annual fluctuations have been observed. In 2021, there were a total of 1,156 laboratory-confirmed cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales.

With the increase in awareness of Lyme disease, improved surveillance, better access to diagnostics, increased likelihood of encountering ticks due to changes in wildlife population, and a combination of habitat changes may lead to an increase in total cases that may result from the change. Distribute ticks across the country.

What is ‘Chronic Lime Disease’?

There is no agreed definition of the term ‘chronic lime disease’ among physicians so it can mean different things to different people. Some people use the term chronic Lyme disease to describe a range of non-specific symptoms, including chronic fatigue and unexplained nervous symptoms, even when there is no evidence of past or present Lyme disease infection.

Non-specific symptoms overlap with several other conditions, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, which may be triggered by common infections such as glandular fever virus and more recently COVID-19.

Should I be tested by NHS or a privately funded laboratory? Is there a difference?

If patients have recent tick exposure but no bull eye rash, NHS doctors in England are instructed to take a blood sample and send it to the NHS or UKHSA laboratory for testing.

Tests work by searching for antibodies that a person with Lyme disease will produce.

It takes some time for antibodies to reach detectable levels, so tests performed within the first 4 weeks of infection may be negative and may need to be repeated in a fresh blood sample taken 4 to 6 weeks after the first test.

We advise people to be cautious about personal tests and talk to their NHS doctor for advice before spending money on personal tests or treatments, as some private laboratories and clinics provide tests and treatments for Lyme disease that may not be supported by scientific evidence. .

Diagnostic tests performed outside the NHS can also produce false positives where the test for Lyme disease is positive if the patient does not actually have it. Our advice is to get help through the NHS.

How can I prevent Lyme disease?

When walking in green spaces, consider wearing clothing that covers your skin to make it more difficult for the tick to enter the appropriate bite site.

Use insect repellents like DEET and consider wearing light colored clothing so you can easily see the tick marks and brush them off.

After spending time outside, check yourself, your clothes, your pets, and others for ticks. Use a tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers to remove any attached ticks as soon as they are found.

More information can be found on the NHS website.

The idea of ​​being bitten by a tick can be scary. It is important to know that taking the right precautions and being aware of ticks can help protect you and your family from tick bites.

Remember that counseling and treatment are readily available through the NHS. So, if you think you have a tick bite and have symptoms, contact your GP and get the treatment you are offered.

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