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Tick bites: Experts sound alarm over disease threats

To help you stay safe this spring and summer, here's a guide to protecting yourself from tick-borne infections

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Government experts are urging people in Gedling borough to be ‘tick aware’ as they enjoy the great outdoors this spring and summer.

Ticks can carry infections and while Lyme disease is more common in the UK, the UK Health Security Agency has recently confirmed a case of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) in England.

To help you stay safe this spring and summer, here’s a guide to protecting yourself from tick-borne infections and about how to recognise the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and TBE.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are most common in grassy and wooded areas. You are therefore more at risk of being bitten if you take part in activities such as hiking, cycling or camping, but they can also sometimes be found in urban gardens.

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How to avoid tick-borne infections

While walking in green spaces, consider wearing clothing that covers your skin to make it more difficult for ticks to access a suitable place to bite.

Use insect repellent such as DEET and consider wearing light-coloured clothing so that you can easily spot ticks and brush them off.

After spending time outside, check yourself, your clothing, your pets and others for ticks. Remove any attached tick as soon as you find it using a tick-removal tool or fine-tipped tweezers.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection transmitted by some tick species. The disease can be acquired when bitten by an infected tick. Although Lyme disease should not deter you from enjoying the outdoors, you can reduce your chance of infection by following the precautions above.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Symptoms include a spreading circular red rash, which may appear as a bulls-eye rash like the image below, as well as non-specific flu-like symptoms. Although a lot of people associate the disease with the rash, many also don’t report seeing one.

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Other signs to look out for include muscle or nerve pains or a drooping facial appearance when the nerves to the muscles around the upper part of the face are affected.

Are there many cases?

There are estimated to be around 3000 cases of Lyme disease diagnosed in England each year.

Can Lyme disease be treated?

In the UK, Lyme disease is an uncommon infection and can be successfully treated with a full course of antibiotics. This is the case for most people who contract Lyme disease, but if left untreated, the infection can spread to the nervous system and other areas of the skin, joints or rarely to the heart. If the nervous system or heart is affected, then injected antibiotics may be offered.

Rapidly recognising symptoms can ensure that if you are developing the disease you can receive the earliest diagnosis and treatment from your GP. If you are bitten by an infected tick your symptoms will typically develop 1-4 weeks after being bitten, however, they can appear anytime between 3 to 30 days after exposure.

What is tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV)?

TBEV is a viral infection that spreads through tick bites. Although it is prevalent in many parts of the world, including several European countries, in the last few years, ticks carrying TBEV have been found in England.

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What are its symptoms?

TBEV causes a range of diseases, from completely asymptomatic infection to mild flu-like illness, all the way to severe infection in the central nervous system such as meningitis or encephalitis (swelling of the brain).

Symptoms of encephalitis can include a high fever with a headache, neck stiffness, confusion, seizures or fits, reduced or loss of consciousness.

Seek urgent medical attention if you or anyone you know experiences symptoms of meningitis:

  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • pain looking at bright lights

Seek urgent medical attention if you or anyone you know develops neurological symptoms:

  • a fit (seizure), if not known to be epileptic
  • sudden confusion or change in behaviour
  • weakness or loss of movement in arms and legs
  • facial dropping, change in vision or slurred speech

More information can be found on the NHS website.

Remember that advice and treatment is readily available through the NHS. So, if you think you have been bitten by a tick and have symptoms, contact your GP and accept the treatment that is offered to you.

Spotted something? Got a story? Email our newsdesk news@gedlingeye.co.uk

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