Sarah raising awareness back in 2013 with her ever supportive Mum, Dad and Matty

Lyme disease

Sarah, Chris Packham and most importantly Itchy raising awareness for The Big Tick project

Lyme disease is an infectious tick borne disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi

 

Lyme disease has been found in many different species but humans and dogs are thought to be particularly susceptible (veterinary-practice.com/article/the-risk-of-lyme-disease-exposure-to-uk-dogs).

 

Due to unfortunately contracting Lyme disease whilst on holiday in Scotland I have amassed a number of resources along the way which I am happy to share in this section. 

 

As I am not a medical doctor I am unable to offer specific individual advice but the links below will point you in the right direction of finding some help.  If you are concerned that your pet may have contracted Lyme disease speak to your primary Veterinary surgeon as the resources below discuss prevention and what to do if you find a tick rather than treatment. 

It is important to note that not all ticks carry the Lyme bacteria.

 

In the last few years Bristol University and The Big Tick Project have been studying the different types of ticks and tick borne diseases present in the UK.  They have created a map where you can look at the area you live in and see what the risk of encountering an infected tick is http://www.bigtickproject.co.uk/ticks-in-the-uk/uk-tick-threat-map/

 

As Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose and treat, prevention is preferable for both humans and our pet friends.

 

My top tip for you, your family and fur family is to have a good read of the information below, get a tick removal tool and know how to use it!

 

Prevention for our pets

In animals using routine preventative products that rapidly kill or repel ticks is very useful to reduce tick feeding and therefore reduce transmission of disease.

There are many products available so seek advice from your primary Veterinary Surgeon to find out whether tablets, spot on or a collar would be most suitable to your pets lifestyle.   Frequent swimming or bathing makes some of the products less useful, whether your pet has had reactions to products in the past should be considered and no product is 100%. 

It is worth getting to know what ticks look like in their various different life stages as they can vary in size and shape (https://stopthetick.co.uk/preventing-tick-bites/ ) and get used to checking your pet regularly. 

I found that getting into the habit of doing a tick check on myself and my dog after each walk was a good way to remember. 

Although ticks can be found in many different types of environments, areas of tall grass, bracken and areas which are shared by deer, cattle or sheep are considered higher risk areas so pay particular attention when you have been in these sort of locations.

Prevention for ourselves, family and friends

Check yourself and your children regularly when out and about.  It is often but not always the case that ticks are found below knee height on adults and above waist height on children.

Once a tick is aboard they like to find warm areas where they can hide out.  Armpits, belly buttons, in the groin, around the hairline are all typical sites to check after a walk.

Again bear in mind that ticks like long grass, bracken and wooded areas so extra precautions need to be taken in these areas.

You can decrease the risk by sticking to the well maintained pathways.

If going “off piste” or on an adventure, long sleeved tops and trousers tucked into socks are an especially good plan. 

Using a repellent on exposed skin is advisable.  Dr Nicola Seal, an entomologist who contracted Lyme disease, did a literature review looking at the different types of repellents available and her findings can be found here http://lymediseaseuk.com/2016/03/27/literature-review-of-tick-repellents-nicola-seal/

As my absolutely favourite thing to do is to head out to the woods every day, I invested in some trousers and t-shirts that are tick repellent and these are certainly worth buying if you spend a lot of time out and about in the natural world.

If you find a tick on your pet

If you find a tick on your pet, have a tick remover tool and are confident to use it then gently remove the tick and pop into a sealed container. Do not be tempted to squash it with bare hands, you can then become exposed to potential infection.

As part of The Big Tick project I talked about this with Chris Packham and the magnificent Itchy 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE1ol6klUvY

If you do not have a tick remover tool and/or are not confident to use it, just call your primary Veterinary clinic and they will be able to help.

Never cover the tick with Vaseline or use any of the numerous old wives tales to remove a tick.  These agitate the tick and increase the chance of the tick passing on infection to whoever it is attached too.

Here’s a little video I did about looking for ticks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EULSNrlOkc

This is also a great resource to look at if you find a tick : http://www.bigtickproject.co.uk/tick-risk/if-your-pet-has-a-tick/

 

If you find a tick on yourself

If you find a tick on yourself then these guidelines from Lyme Disease UK are very useful http://lymediseaseuk.com/2015/10/26/tick-removal/

It is advisable to call your GP surgery for advice and to get the tick bite on record.

 

Public Health England run a tick surveillance scheme where you can send the tick in for assessment.  Be aware however you will not get sent the results of any infectious disease the tick was carrying.  There are now private laboratories where you can send ticks for analysis.  I have no personal experience of these however they could potentially be very informative https://www.pyramidtravelproducts.co.uk/products/lyme-disease-test-kit/

 

If you or your pet become unwell following a tick bite seek advice from the appropriate health care professional and mention your concerns regarding Lyme disease exposure.

Dogs DO NOT get the pathogmonic Erythema migrans rash that some humans get following infection.

Useful websites and articles for further information

http://lymediseaseuk.com/about-us/

https://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/

https://www.esccap.org/

https://veterinary-practice.com/article/the-risk-of-lyme-disease-exposure-to-uk-dogs

https://stopthetick.co.uk/preventing-tick-bites/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tick-surveillance-scheme

Over the past few years I have been involved in several Lyme disease awareness campaigns (see media links below) and am so grateful to all the support and encouragement I received.  I am one of the lucky ones who has made a good recovery and I hope that in sharing this very personal part of my journey  it encourages those who are in the midst of the illness and demonstrates that recovery is possible.

I am proud to be a patron for Vis-à-vis Symposiums, a charity who dedicate their time to educating medical professionals and the public about tick borne infection.

http://www.visavissymposiums.org/patrons/

Some of the media coverage of my journey with Lyme disease

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-kent-22776731/kent-vet-sarah-bignell-disabled-by-tick-bite-disease

https://www.itv.com/news/meridian/update/2013-06-14/lyme-disease-threat/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-sussex-27274652/ashford-vet-sarah-bignall-howse-in-tick-disease-warning

This is a tick I found on my trousers after a walk in the woods - luckily I spotted it so it caused no harm.

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