Posted On: 16/10/2015
"Surging numbers of people are being diagnosed with Lyme disease as cases spread from rural areas to the suburbs," the Daily Mail reports.Â
The ongoing rise in Lyme disease cases in the UKÂ â€“Â thought to be driven by climate change, leading to warmer wintersÂ â€“Â has been known by public health officials for some time. Reported cases in England and Wales rose from 268 in 2001 to 959 in 2011, but the true figure is thought be much higher. Current estimates put the actual figure at around 3,000 cases a year in England and Wales.
It may also be the case that the disease is, as the Mail puts it, "moving into the suburbs," or least into the parks. AÂ recent study from September 2015Â found ticks that could potentially carry infection in two South London parks: Richmond Park and Bushy Park.
This latest media interest in Lyme disease is driven by the fact that a number of high-profile people on both sides of the Atlantic have reported contracting the infection, such as billionaire founder of Phones4U John Caudwell and High School Musical star Selena Gomez.
So what exactly is Lymeâ€™s disease, what are the symptoms and treatments, and most importantly, how can you stop yourself contracting the condition? Find out below.
Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis,Â is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks.
Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures found in woodland and heath areas. They feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. Ticks that carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease are found throughout the UK and in other parts ofÂ Europe and North America.
Lyme diseaseÂ can often be treated effectively if it's detected early on. But if it's not treated or treatment is delayed, there's a risk you could develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.
Many people withÂ early-stage Lyme disease develop a distinctive circular rash at the site of the tick bite, usually aroundÂ three to 30 days after being bitten.
The rash is often described as looking like a bull's-eye on a dart board. The affected area of skin will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised.
The size of the rash canÂ vary significantly and it may expand over several days or weeks. Typically, it'sÂ around 15cm (6 inches) across, but it can be much larger or smaller than this. Some people may develop several rashes in different parts of their body.
However,Â around one in three people with Lyme disease won't developÂ this rash.
Some people with Lyme disease also experienceÂ flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as tiredness (fatigue), muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, a high temperature (fever), chills and neck stiffness.Â Â
More serious symptoms may develop several weeks, months or even years later, if Lyme disease is left untreated or is not treated early on. TheseÂ can include:
Some of theseÂ problems will slowly get better with treatment, although they can persist if treatment is started late.
You should see your GP if you develop any of the symptoms described above after being bitten by a tick, or if you think you may have been bitten. Make sure you let your GP know if you've spent time in woodland or heath areas where ticks are known to live.
If you develop symptoms of Lyme disease, you will normally be given a course ofÂ antibioticÂ tablets, capsules or liquid. Most people will require a two- to four-week course, depending on the stage of the condition.
If you are prescribed antibiotics, it's important to finish the course, even if you are feeling better, because this will help ensure that all the bacteria are killed.
There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Lyme disease. The best way to prevent theÂ condition is to be aware of the risks when you visit areas where ticks are found and to take sensible precautions.
You can reduce the risk of infection by:
Lyme Disease 'Greatest Threat To Public Health'. Sky News, October 11 2015
Lyme disease cases have quadrupled.Â The Daily Telegraph, October 10 2015
Walkers told to cover up as tick bites lead to dramatic rise in Lyme disease. The Times, October 12 2015
Nelson C, Banks S, Jeffries CL, et al. Tick abundance in South London parks and the potential risk of Lyme borreliosis to the general public. Medical and Veterinary Entomology. Published online September 24 2015