So what do we really know about Lyme disease and ticks?
Lyme disease is a rare disease that can’t be contracted in Ireland and ticks are annoying but harmless little critters that like to indulge themselves on our unsuspecting pets, right? Wrong!
“Research has shown (authored by Prof. Gray of University of Dublin) that ticks collected in the areas of County Kerry, Galway, Connemara and Wicklow do carry the borrelia bacteria therefore people in these areas are at risk of being bitten by infected ticks”.
Lyme disease or Borreliosis is a potentially debilitating disease caused by bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi and is currently the fastest growing vector borne infection in the world. The bacteria are shaped like a corkscrew which enables them to burrow through body tissue that most bacteria wouldn’t be able to penetrate. It is transmitted to humans by infected ticks that attach to your skin to feed on your blood. Whilst the ticks are feeding the bacteria is released into your bloodstream, the longer the tick is attached to your skin the higher the risk of infection. It can take weeks, months or sometimes even years before the symptoms appear. The disease can sometimes crop up years later following an illness or period of stress.
The early symptoms of a Lyme infection can include headaches, chronic fatigue and flu like symptoms such as sore throat, neck stiffness and muscle aches. The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary from day to day and from person to person sometimes making it extremely difficult to diagnose which earns it the nickname ‘The Great Mimicker’. Lyme disease is commonly misdiagnosed as other illnesses such as C.F.S (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or M.E.), Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia.
Approximately 50% percent of infected people will develop the classic ‘bull’s eye rash’ known as an erythema migrans (EM) within 3 to 30 days of being bitten. It may be in a place where is goes unnoticed like the scalp and some people never develop this rash.
Treatment in the early stages of the disease is essential to prevent long term health complications. Treatment usually consists of a short course of antibiotics. If left undetected it can develop into disseminated or late Lyme disease which can be extremely difficult to eradicate and can cause serious, long term health problems where symptoms are similar to Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Parkinson’s disease. It can also lead to heart problems, paralysis and loss of sight.
You are most at risk being bitten by a tick from April to September. Factors that can increase your risk of being bitten by an infected tick include:
- spending a lot of time outdoors in tall grass, brush, shrubs, or wooded areas
- having pets that may carry ticks indoors
- participating in activities such as yard work, hiking, camping, fishing, or hunting in tick-infested areas
Learn more about Lyme:
More information about the symptoms and treatment of Lyme disease can be found at www.ticktalkireland.org. There’s also some useful information about tick prevention and removal. Tick Talk Ireland is Ireland’s first Lyme disease charity and was founded by Lyme sufferers to encourage awareness, prevention & treatment of Lyme disease (Borreliosis) in Ireland. They received official charitable status in February 2011 and are currently planning their first fundraising/awareness event in Arklow, Co. Wicklow on Sunday 1st of May. There will be a sponsored walk from Brittas Bay to the Arklow Bay hotel which will be followed by a free presentation about Lyme disease. The event will finish with an evening of entertainment and fun in the Arklow Bay Hotel with music from Jimmy Reid and Fusion. All are welcome. For more information see our website or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tick Talk Week will run from May 1st – May 7th 2011.