Lyme disease risk could be on the rise, but what is the condition?

Better or worse than a bed bug? We’d rather not choose [Photo: Pexels]
Better or worse than a bed bug? We’d rather not choose [Photo: Pexels]

To catch Lyme disease, you first have to get bitten by a tick, before a circular red rash develops around the bite.

For some people, that’s the end of it. But some who are diagnosed develop other, long-term symptoms, including aches and tiredness that can last for years.

Bella Hadid and her mother, Yolanda, have both been open about their struggles with the disease which has left the former bed ridden and hospitalised in the past.

Known as post-infectious Lyme disease, according to the NHS, its symptoms are often compared to chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

And it isn’t clear why it happens to some people who have been bitten and not others.

And apparently, the number of ticks potentially carrying the disease has been increasing.

According to a study from Public Health England (PHE), numbers of the castor bean tick Ixodes ricinus – which tend to carry the disease – more than tripled between 2006 and 2016 thanks to warmer weather.

In 2006, around 200 ticks were counted, a number which had risen to more than 700 in 2016.

Ticks are thriving in the warmer weather [Photo: Pexels]
Ticks are thriving in the warmer weather [Photo: Pexels]

The figures come from PHE’s surveillance scheme, which involves both members of the public and vets reporting on ticks they’ve spotted.

According to The Sun, PHE’s reporting system breaks the country into 2,864 grid squares comprising 6.2 miles each.

Apparently, the Ixodes ricinus tick was seen in 780 squares, including 548 where it hadn’t been spotted pre-2010.

While there were small clusters in north west Wales, Scotland and north east England, most of the new sightings were in southern England.

See a doctor if you feel unwell after a tick bite [Photo: Pexels]
See a doctor if you feel unwell after a tick bite [Photo: Pexels]

And that includes Greater London, where the tick was spotted in 80% of its squares (ouch).

Though apparently, as with most studies like this, it could signify an increased awareness of ticks as much as an increase in tick numbers.

Even if it does imply the latter that doesn’t mean we’ll definitely get Lyme disease from them either.

Katherine Russell, a PHE expert on animal-borne infections, told the paper: “Just because this study has reported increased numbers of I ricinus ticks, this does not mean that all of these ticks will carry B burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease.

“Additionally, not all tick bites will result in an infection with Lyme disease.

“There are many simple ways in which people can protect themselves, for example by walking on clearly defined paths, using insect repellent and performing regular tick checks.

“Ticks can safely be removed with tweezers or a tick removal tool.”

Either way, if you’ve been bitten by a tick and are feeling pretty rough, book a GP appointment.

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