UK Lyme disease cases on the rise
Investigation: Professor Richard Wall is leading the Big Tick Project at the University of Bristol
The figures point to a rapid rise in the tick-borne illness that can result in chronic fatigue, pain, confusion, depression-like symptoms and memory loss.
Positive tests for Lyme disease rise by one third
People testing positive and showing symptoms of the disease rose by just over one third last summer according to PHE.
During the third quarter of 2015, there were a total of 421 cases of laboratory confirmed Lyme disease were reported, compared with 300 during the third quarter of 2014.
- Of these cases, 340 were acute cases of the disease where the sufferers experienced sudden and severe symptoms.
- Of the acute cases, 182 were male (aged 2- 90 years) and 151 were female (aged 1- 93.
According to the NHS around 2,000 to 3,000 people in the UK are affected by Lyme Disease each year but charities campaigning for greater awareness of the disease suggest this could be as many as 15,000.
Big Tick Project launched to study tick-borne disease risk to dogs
In 2015, TV wildlife presenter and MyPetonline blogger Chris Packham launched the Big Tick Project, a tick gathering and mapping project by the University of Bristol and MSD Animal Health.
Chris Packham said: “The rise in the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the UK reported by Public Health England suggests the need for greater awareness of this damaging illness.”
As well as highlighting the risks that ticks present to both human and companion animal health we need to be more alert to the signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease and the sensible steps we can all take to protect ourselves and our animals - Chris Packham
Chris Packham added: “As well as highlighting the risks that ticks present to both human and companion animal health we need to be more alert to the signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease and the sensible steps we can all take to protect ourselves and our animals.”
Professor Richard Wall who has led Bristol University’s Big Tick Project team said: “Given the reported increase in cases of Lyme disease, the Big Tick Project study will help us to understand these changes both in terms of the longer seasonal activity of ticks and their increasingly widespread geographic location and could have important implications for both human and animal health by quantifying the diversity and prevalence of the pathogens they may be carrying.”
Government sets up regional teams to diagnose Lyme disease in people
Meanwhile, growing concern over the rise in the tick-borne infection has prompted Government ministers to set up a network of regional experts to help diagnose and treat the problem.
Health minister Lord Prior told a House of Lords debate: “Some patients suffer debilitating illness with symptoms that persist after treatment for several months or longer.”
Lord Prior revealed that the Department of Health is to set up a network of experts around the country to support GPs and hospital staff most of whom have never seen cases of the disease.
The increase in the disease is being blamed on rising numbers of tick populations which are active for longer due to climate change, a rise in numbers of wild mammals such as deer that host them.
Celebrities join campaigners to speak of battle with Lyme disease
Celebrities who have spoken of their battle with the illness include the singer Avril Lavigne, the actor Richard Gere and more recently Phones4U boss John Caudwell, 11 of whose family members have tested positive for the disease.
Pets as well as people can contract Lyme disease. The symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only three to four days either in the same leg or in other legs and the joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.
Eventually, kidney failure may set in and the dog may exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst.