After a year of COVID-19 related lockdowns, and the approaching warmer temperatures, many of us are eager to get back outside. On the path to normality, we will need to continue to observe the guidelines that protect us from coronavirus and support the NHS, but also Wake Up to Lyme.
The symptoms of acute Lyme disease can overlap with COVID-19 symptoms, with fatigue, fever and exhaustion being common in both cases.Yet it is largely unknown, and very often untreated or misdiagnosed.
As we return to parks and private gardens, both being places ticks are active, it’s important to be aware of how to prevent tick bites, know what to do if we are bitten and help prevent further cases of Lyme disease this summer.
- Ticks can be as small as poppy seeds so careful monitoring is key.
- Carry a tick removal tool and learn how to remove embedded ticks correctly.
- Take a look at a map to see if where you live or where you will be visiting, is at high-risk for tick activity whilst being aware that ticks have been found everywhere throughout the UK.
- Do not let your children play in leaf litter and tall grasses without wearing an insect repellent and thoroughly checking them over before returning home.
- Wear long-sleeves and tuck trousers into socks to reduce skin exposure – light colours may improve tick visibility.
UK registered charity, Lyme Disease UK, will be carrying out their fifth ‘Wake Up to Lyme’ campaign this May, International Lyme Awareness Month. Lyme Disease UK is a volunteer-led charity that offers support for Lyme disease patients and their loved ones.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks. Lyme Disease UK have a detailed and comprehensive guide available on their website and want to help the public wake up to how vital prevention and early intervention can be. We can still enjoy and be amongst nature but rather be informed as to what steps should be taken in the event of a tick bite:
“We don’t want people to be scared of going back outside as the lockdown measures are gradually lifted, but rather go out armed with the facts and knowledge they need to protect themselves and others from Lyme disease. Early intervention is key, and getting that message out to the public is crucial.” Natasha Metcalf, Co-founder and Chair of Lyme Disease UK
What is the impact?
Lyme disease is a serious illness that has a huge impact on the lives of those suffering with it. However, it is preventable and treatable. Current sufferers face a high chance of misdiagnosis as Lyme symptoms mimic other conditions, such as ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, arthritis, fibromyalgia and depression. Lyme Disease UK hopes to spread valuable knowledge throughout the public as we collectively wake up to Lyme.
The campaign aims to:
- Alleviate pressure on NHS services by reducing the incidence of patients seeking medical attention for tick bites.
- Make local communities aware of how to prevent tick bites and reducing the likelihood of more people contracting Lyme disease.
- Share advice on how to safely remove a tick.
- Inform people that if they do become unwell following a tick bite, they should seek early treatment from their GP to stand the best chance of recovery and avoiding complications.
What are the facts?
For a disease that many of us know little about,, it is more common than we believe. Let’s consider the facts:
- There are around 2000-3000 new cases each year in England and Wales according to Public Health England.
- However, cases may be three times higher than estimated, as this figure is based on positive blood test results and excludes all clinical diagnoses of Lyme disease, including people diagnosed based on the presence of a Lyme disease rash.
- A third of people don’t get the rash.
- Ticks are found in urban parks and gardens and in every county in the UK
- In 2016, the Big Tick Project discovered that a third of dogs checked in a study had ticks attached which their owners did not know about.
Why do we need to wake up?
Lyme disease is considered an invisible illness, and the implications are isolating, frightening and expensive. With little help available through the NHS, the Wake Up to Lyme campaign hopes to prevent tick bites and provide key knowledge to those who are concerned they have been bitten. Only by sharing this knowledge can we support those who are suffering, and ensure that as few people as possible are impacted.
Public Health England estimates that there are around 3,000 new cases per year but the true number is unknown, and likely to be far higher. The fact is that thousands of people will be infected this year and many are likely to be undiagnosed or under-treated. This may leave them with slowly developing disabilities which are misdiagnosed as conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Many of the members of Lyme Disease UK’s Online Community group have had difficult and prolonged experiences trying to obtain an accurate diagnosis.
The #WakeUpToLyme awareness campaign aims to reduce the number of new infections and educate people on how to enjoy the outdoors safely.