herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Parents warning for Lyme disease as ticks reach peak

Close up of an adult female and a nymp tick
Close up of an adult female and a nymp tick

Parents are being urged to be alert to the danger of Lyme disease which could affect up to 100 people in Ireland every year.

It is transmitted by the bite of infected hard-bodied ticks which can lurk in woodland areas, clearings with grass and open fields and bushes.

Cases tend to appear with greater frequency after April, and this month the national disease watchdog will hold an awareness week about the issue.

The infection is generally mild and affects only the skin. But, occasionally, it can be more severe.

People may suffer from cardiac problems, bladder irritation and neurological changes such as tingling, numbness and tremors if the disease advances.

Experts say that early treatment is vital to prevent serious consequences.

"Campers, walkers and certain occupational groups such as forestry workers, conservation workers, deer cullers and farmers appear to be at particular risk of exposure," the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) said in its latest newsletter.

It said that the ticks are hosted by animals including deer, sheep and cows and their tiny size means they can remain undetected for long periods.

"Ticks walk on the ground and climb plants. They latch on to a passing animal host or people by using hooks on their legs," the HSPC said.

"The risk of infection is greatest in late spring or early summer, so April is the time to ensure that parents, children and doctors are aware of the risks posed by ticks," its newsletter said.

The ticks that carry Lyme disease are prevalent in Ireland.

Treatment using antibiotics is relatively straightforward especially if its identified early.

Fine Gael TD Dan Neville revealed recently that Lyme disease was an issue about which many people had contacted him.

He pointed out that due to the diverse and unspecific nature of the symptoms associated with Lyme disease, a number of less serious cases may not be diagnosed, leading to an under-reporting of cases.

"Recent estimates suggest that there may be up to 50 to 100 cases in Ireland per year," he added.

Canadian singer Avril Lavigne revealed this month that a severe case of Lyme disease left her bedridden for five months.

Undiagnosed

Avril (30) said that her illness was contracted sometime last spring, however she had many months of being undiagnosed despite consultations with several doctors.

She said she feels "80pc better now".

"I'm a very private person. But I can't just sit here and do nothing. I want to help people and the first thing is bringing more awareness to Lyme disease. People don't really talk about the disease, and help can be minuscule," she said.

Lyme disease awareness week takes place here from April 27.

fdillon@herald.ie

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