How afraid should we be of ticks and Lyme disease?

There has been a surge in cases of the tick-borne infection, with rugby star Matt Dawson the latest public figure to warn of the dangers after needing heart surgery to recover. Here’s the truth about the tiny creatures and the harm they can cause.

Infected deer ticks are nothing if not indiscriminate when they gorge on human blood. And when the eyeless arachnids sink their teeth into celebrity skin and transmit Lyme disease, we all hear about it. Avril Lavigne, Richard Gere and George W Bush are all said to have experienced the horrors of hosting the borrelia bacteria that can cause a range of debilitating symptoms from fatigue and joint pain to heart problems and partial paralysis.

cont/d... in theguardian.com/lifeandstyl...

21 Replies

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  • Martine Mccutcheon has it too. She caught it after sitting in a London park.

  • Stefcon

    It's all over the UK but any deer park must be very high risk although apparently only 10% of the ticks carry infection.

  • Clutter very interesting article . Thank you. It looks like ticks are all over making their ugly rounds . In the US it's more in the suburban areas that has the tick problems . I would assume in UK and all over must be the same thou I'm sure it can be in cities too I'm sure . Can you imagine that a such a small ticks can cause such tragic harm to humans for life . It's very debilitating and sometimes it's hard to diagnose . Patients can have symptoms for a while never thinking it can be a tick . Only when everything has been exhausted to the limits they give it a try to test for Lyme deases . And sometimes at a high price when patients have a full blown Lyme deases that was not caught soon enough . I hope that very soon this Lyme deases can be eradicated with all the other illnesses .

  • Over here in northern Finland ticks were pretty much very rare until recently.

    One reason indeed is deer that doesn't even belong into finnish nature. Deer are fed by people so they tend hang around people and in garden areas. That is one major reason the tick bomb has exploded.

    As dogs and cats can be protected from ticks by collars/meds why in earth deer are not fed the same "poison"!?

    We are advised to keep the grass short and rubber boots on. And that's about it.

  • I used to marshal motorsport Hill Climbing events at Loton Park in Shropshire which was set in a deer park... We wore full Proban overalls (in a delightful bright shade of orange) and were ALWAYS instructed to tuck the legs into our boot socks so that ticks could not make their way anywhere near legs. Not a particularly sexy look, but it stopped the little buggers getting a bite!

  • One of the doctors interviewed in The Thyroid Secret said that the nymphs are even more dangerous. He mentioned four more types of Lyme and that even fleas can transmit.

  • Horse flies carry Lyme as well.

  • You know, that makes sense since anything insect that bites has the ability to transfer bacteria or viruses. That's why building up our own immunity is the only REAL chance we have to escape this awful disease.

  • Many animals carry ticks but the rapid spread of deer is a major contributor to the increase in Lymes disease.Deer ,especially relatively new species in the UK such as muntjac are rarely seen but are present in many habitats.Muntjac are destructive in gardens. On the moors near my home I have only twice seen deer despite knowing they were there for decades so folk are unaware of the likelihood of ticks being present.

    We really need a major cull of wild deer ,which also cause many road accidents .Venison is good to eat .

  • Totally agree with your comments, but beware I had venison for supper in findland and venison sausages for breakfast then went on a deer ride ended up in a huge accident, I'm sure they knew!

  • Where I live in the countryside, on one side of the valley there have been several cases of Lyme disease caused by tick bites, but the other side of the valley doesn't have the same incidence!

    I once found a tick on the underside of my dustbin lid, so it seems where I am they lurk anywhere, not just in the grass or on deer!

    But it does mean that our GPS are up to speed about it, so you are usually prescribed antibiotics for any tick bite as a matter of course, and the local hospital is also very switched on should someone present with those symptoms.

    Lyme disease is certainly very unpleasant from what I've seen, and tick bites to be avoided where possible, along with treating domestic pets and checking yourself after walks or possible exposure.

    However, I'm not sure how easily total eradication could be achieved; but local gamekeepers do control the numbers in the wild deer that roam our area. I very rarely see deer near my house and we certainly pick up ticks here, but fortunately so far not those carrying Lyme disease.

  • 2017 survey on urban tick numbers carried out in Salisbury, Wiltshire:

    researchgate.net/publicatio...

  • The journalist who wrote the article, Holly Rubenstein, is my son's girlfriend and she has suffered for 13 years following a tick bite. Lyme disease is certainly a growing problem and sadly most GPs lack the knowledge to diagnose and treat it.

  • stiltzski interesting! I've made a couple of comments on the article, just to put my experience out there.

  • just had a look in my kitchin. Aplogise if this is a bit whacky but dog owners on my dog facebook page swear by a product called 'billy no mates' to keep fleas and ticks away. It is a herbal mix of mint, lemon balm. fenugreek, seaweed and neem leaves. So should be safe for humans, however having just tried some in yogaurt I can understand why my dog has een a little reluctant to eat his dinner when it is sprinkled on. Also Avon used to do an oil spray called 'skin so soft' I think which was very popular with people walking in scotland due to its ability to keep the we midges away.

    I will try to find out if Billy comes in tablet form.

    I have heard that the increase in ticks is because of globel warming and fewer frosts. They thrive in warm damp climates.

    Horrible horrible little things.

  • sites.newpaltz.edu/ticktalk...

    Just adding to the debate !

  • The spread of ticks has a lot more to do with climate than just the deer population. In many countries in Europe they are now routinely found in cities - any green area will do - and houses, especially in places like cellars or lofts.

    Their nymphs which are about the size of a dot a pen makes on a page and largely transparent can lurk in the grass and get you just the same as their adult forms.

    They carry boreliosis and some five other types of bacteria which all can give you debilitating symptoms and can be passed to your children and activate under 'favourable' conditions such as mono or glandular fever or any other infection - this is what happened to my friend whose life was practically destroyed by this condition.

    Tests and treatments are notoriously unreliable and prevention is crucial. I would not walk on the grass barefoot, not even in my own garden and cover myself as much as possible walking under trees in parks or woods. Dogs should be inspected after any outings as should people - they like getting into the folds and creases of your skins like at the back of your knee joints, under breasts or in your hair. Any critters found should be gently removed making sure their head is not left inside the skin and taken for investigation by a qualified laboratory.

  • I made a mistake, thinking the link was to Holly's article in the Guardian this week. Hopefully this is the link to her article: theguardian.com/commentisfr...

  • I put Lemon juice on my dogs when they go to the woods it seems a good deterrent, maybe i may put some on me just in case in future ! or you can use Diamaceous Earth (food grade ) but it is very messy as is a powder, i do not use chemicals on my dog as one is not allowed any chemicals, they haven't ever had fleas or ticks since using either of them. both cheap and work better than the chemicals made to deter ticks and fleas. Over the years the parasites become immune to the chemicals....plus the chemicals are dangerous to the dogs and can cause many problems like fits and other worse things ..

  • I lived in Germany for at over sixteen years, in one day took 36 ticks out of school children on a summer trip, it was part of life with my husband in the forces. I would go out side to peg in the washing and come in with one attached to some part of the body. We lived onto a wood full of deer in north Germany. We would check the children each night and ourselves of course. We knew what to look for and the danger signs of a problem. My friends sixteen year old daughter had Lyme Disease and as a result had Bell palsy which was devastating as a teenager. The one thing I always didn't understand was that the German children always had a injection for Lyme disease but we were never offered this!

  • The main cultprit for spreading the Lyme disease is actually a humble mouse: washingtonpost.com/news/to-...

    although humans are also to blame: the have cuased the reduction in the numbers of predators, which eat mice:

    The scientist said a key to protecting human health is to take measures to try to control the white-footed mouse population, and one way to do that is by supporting natural predators by keeping their habitats intact.

    (...)

    Predators of white-footed mice, such as owls, hawks, bobcats, foxes and weasels, won't get Lyme disease by eating an infected rodent because the bacteria cannot survive digestive tracts of birds or mammals.

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