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Recent study suggests that cases of Lyme disease in the UK may be three times higher than previously estimated

Recent study suggests that cases of Lyme disease in the UK may be three times higher than previously estimated

LYME disease may be more prevalent in the UK than previously thought according to recently published research.

Researchers found that the total number of Lyme disease diagnoses in the UK could be more than 8,000 in 2019 when compared with previous estimates. This is three times higher than originally estimated.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans when they are bitten by an infected tick. It is the commonest tick-borne disease in the UK.

Ticks are widespread across Great Britain and are most active in the spring and summer months.  Lyme disease can be contracted anywhere where humans come into contact with ticks – in the countryside, urban parks or private gardens. It is important not to dismiss any areas as ‘zero risk’.  For travellers, Lyme disease is particularly prevalent in parts of central, eastern and northern Europe (including Scandinavia) and in the north eastern states of the US.

Dr Penny Morris, Medical Director for Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group and Local GP said: “Lyme disease most commonly presents as a spreading red rash which looks like a bull’s eye around the bite area.  However about a third of people with Lyme disease do not notice a rash and may have general flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches and pains and headache.

“If recognised and treated early, most cases can be treated with antibiotics without any complications. However if not treated, the disease can lead to permanent damage to the joints and nervous system.”

Lyme Disease UK recommends the following advice

To avoid being bitten:

  • Wear insect repellent during outdoor activities
  • Consider spraying clothing with the repellent permethrin
  • Avoid walking through long grass and stick to pathways
  • Wear long sleeves and tuck trousers into socks
  • Shower and check for ticks when you get home
  • Use tick prevention on pets

If you find a tick:

  • Use tweezers to pull the tick off as soon as possible, trying not to squeeze its body
  • Clean the area with antiseptic
  • Put the tick in a zip-lock bag so it can be tested
  • Tumble-dry clothes at highest heat or wash at a high temperature
  • Check the rest of your body for further ticks
  • If you notice a rash or become unwell, see your GP immediately and raise your concerns about Lyme disease
  • Draw around any rash with a pen and take photos of any changes
  • Be aware of flu-like symptoms