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Enjoying the autumn outdoors? Be tick aware!

Monday, 19 October 2015

The public are being reminded to be ‘tick aware’ whilst out and about over the autumn months. 

Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures which can be found in forests, woodlands, heaths, and moorland areas and in suburban parks. Ticks attach themselves to the skin of an animal or human as they brush past. They bite into the skin and feed on the blood. 

Late spring, early summer and autumn are peak times for ticks to be active. 

Tick bites can transmit the bacterial infection Lyme disease. Most ticks do not carry the infection but any area in which ticks are present should be regarded as a potential risk for acquiring Lyme disease. 

Incidence of Lyme disease acquired in the Isle of Man remains low. 

Recent years have seen a rise in reported infections in the UK.  While not all cases of Lyme disease are confirmed by laboratory testing, the overall number of Lyme disease cases in England and Wales is estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000 cases a year.  Lyme disease from ticks is also found in parts of Europe and North America. 

The most common and often only symptom of Lyme disease is a rash, which gradually spreads from the site of the tick bite.  The rash can cover a large area and last for weeks if untreated.  Some patients may also have 'flu-like’ symptoms.  More serious symptoms may appear in some untreated patients in the following weeks or months.  These can affect the nervous system, joints and rarely the heart or other tissues. 

Lyme disease can be treated successfully with antibiotics.  Early treatment usually clears the rash within several days and helps to prevent the development of complications.  More serious symptoms also respond to antibiotic treatment. 

Dr Ewart, Director of Public Health, said:

'Being active outdoors is great for our health, but at this time of the year ticks are active, so taking some simple precautions can help to keep you and your family safe from tick bites and reduce the risk of Lyme disease. 

'Ticks are very small - about the size of a poppy seed - and can easily be overlooked, so it is important to check regularly for attached ticks on the skin. 

'If you find a tick it should be removed promptly, as infected ticks are unlikely to transmit the infection if they are removed in the early stages of attachment. Ticks can be removed with tweezers or special tick hooks, pulling gently upwards away from the skin. 

'People who develop a rash or other symptoms after a tick bite should consult their GP.'

To minimise the risk of being bitten by an infected tick, the advice is to:

  • Wear appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas (a long sleeved shirt and long trousers tucked into socks). Light coloured fabrics are useful, as it is easier to see ticks against a light background
  • Consider using insect repellents, e.g. preparations containing DEET
  • Inspect skin frequently and remove any attached ticks
  • At the end of the day, check again thoroughly for ticks, especially in skin folds
  • Make sure that children's head and neck areas, including scalps, are properly checked
  • A shower or bath after returning from a tick-infested area helps to reduce risk
  • Check that ticks are not brought home on clothes
  • Check that pets do not bring ticks into the home on their fur, talk with your vet as to the best tick control method for your pet.

For further information about ticks and Lyme Disease visit www.gov.im/ticks

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