The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a red skin rash that looks similar to the bull’s eye on a dartboard. However, if Lyme disease is left untreated, further symptoms can follow, including:
- A high temperature (fever) 38C or over.
- Muscle pain.
- Joint pain and swelling.
- Neurological symptoms, such as temporary paralysis of the facial muscles.
A person with Lyme disease is not contagious because the infection can only be spread by the ticks.
How common is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an uncommon infection. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) estimates that there are between 1,000 – 2,000 cases of Lyme disease in the UK each year.
The ticks that cause Lyme disease are commonly found in woodland and heath land areas. This is because these types of habitat have high numbers of tick-carrying animals, such as deer and mice. Parts of the UK that are known to have a particularly high population of ticks include:
- The New Forest in Hampshire.
- The South Downs.
- Parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire.
- Thetford forest in Norfolk.
- The Lake District.
- The Yorkshire Moors.
- The Scottish Highlands.
Due to their breeding patterns the tick population is at its highest during late spring and early summer.
Ticks can also be found in rural areas of many other countries including:
- United States of America.
There is a widely held misconception that the outlook for Lyme disease is poor, and that the condition cannot be treated. However, this is not the case.
If Lyme disease is diagnosed in its early stages, it can be treated with antibiotics, and the outlook for the condition is excellent. Most people will make a full recovery within a couple of days.
Even if more serious symptoms develop, they can usually be cured with antibiotics, although a longer course will be required.
A vaccination for Lyme disease was introduced in 1998, but it has since been withdrawn by the manufacturer due to controversies over alleged side effects.
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to take sensible precautions when you are in areas that are known to have a high tick population, such as:
- Wear a long sleeved shirt.
- Wear long trousers and tuck the legs into your socks.
- Wear insect repellant.
- Inspect your skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including your head, neck, armpits, groin and waistband.
- Check that ticks are not brought home on your clothes.
- Check that pets do not brind ticks into your home.
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