Many of us have heard about the traumatic ordeal of former England rugby player, Matt Dawson. He contracted Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick in a London park early last year. Following multiple heart operations and 18 months of treatment, he is now thankfully free of the disease. However, he is still on medication and acknowledges it will take a long time for his heart to fully recover. He has since joined forces with The Big Tick Project, which was co-founded by the TV presenter Chris Packham, to raise awareness of the dangers of ticks.
Ticks are present in the UK year-round, but numbers reach their peaks from April to October. They are small, spider-like creatures commonly found in woodland and heath areas. If left untreated, the bacterial infection caused by the bites of infected ticks can lead to conditions like meningitis and heart failure, and can even prove fatal. It’s estimated there are around 2,000 – 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.
So, what are the symptoms?
In the early stages (3-30 days after being bitten), one in three people with Lyme disease will develop a rash surrounding the bite. The rash is typically around 6 inches wide, circular and red. It actually resembles a bull’s-eye on a dart board. Some people will also experience flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, a fever and neck stiffness.
In the later stages (weeks, months or years after being bitten), the symptoms tend to become more serious. They can include painful joints (inflammatory arthritis), heart problems including heart failure and heart block, memory problems and difficulty concentrating, paralysis of the facial muscles, numbness and pain in the limbs and meningitis.