14 April 2011
The Health Protection Agency is advising people to take care when visiting areas where ticks are present, to prevent tick bites and reduce the risk of catching Lyme disease.
Latest provisional figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) show there were 953 laboratory-confirmed cases of Lyme disease reported in England and Wales in 2010. The majority of these cases were acquired in the UK rather than overseas, with two-thirds of cases identified among residents in the South of England.
The overall figure for England and Wales is estimated at between 2,000 and 3,000 cases a year as in previous years, as some cases are clinically diagnosed rather than being laboratory tested. Incidence of Lyme disease acquired in England and Wales remains low compared to some other European countries, particularly those in central Europe and Scandinavia.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection which is transmitted by tick bites. Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures which can be found in forests, woodland, heaths, moorland areas and in suburban parkland. Any area in which ticks are present should be regarded as having a potential risk of Lyme disease. Late spring, early summer and autumn are peak times for tick bites and coincide with people venturing into the great outdoors in the warmer weather.
Dr Dilys Morgan, head of gastrointestinal, emerging and zoonotic infections department at the HPA, said: "It's important that people take preventive measures against tick bites and also look out for ticks after visiting affected areas especially in the southern counties of England, the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands to reduce the risk of catching Lyme disease."
Cases of Lyme disease are often acquired through recreational activities including walking, hiking and mountain-biking. Areas where the infection has been acquired in the UK include popular holiday destinations such as Exmoor, the New Forest, the South Downs, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, Thetford Forest, the Lake District, the Yorkshire moors and the Scottish Highlands.
Dr Morgan added: "Ticks that can transmit Lyme disease 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. Most ticks do not carry the infection but if one is found it should be removed promptly, as infected ticks are unlikely to transmit the organism 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 HPA advice is to:
Notes for editors:
1. For further information about the symptoms of Lyme borreliosis and tick bite prevention visit our website: http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/InfectiousDiseases/InfectionsAZ/LymeDisease/
Lyme disease leaflets produced in conjunction with The Royal Parks and New Forest District Council are available at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1271256716650
Lyme disease figures are available at:
Members of the public should seek advice about their specific travel health needs from their GP or local travel clinic.
2. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. It does this by providing advice and information to the general public, to health professionals such as doctors and nurses, and to national and local government. From April 2012 the HPA will become part of Public Health England. To find out more, visit our website: www.hpa.org.uk
3. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 020 8327 7901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 020 8200 4400.
Last reviewed: 14 April 2011