Ticks and Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks.

Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures found in woodland and heath areas. They feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans.  Cases of Lyme disease have been reported throughout the UK, but areas known to have a particularly high population of ticks do include the North Yorkshire Moors.

Most tick bites happen in late spring, early summer and autumn this is because these are the times of year when most people take part in outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping.  Ticks can be found in any areas where there is deep or overgrown vegetation and where there is access to animals for them to feed on.  Ticks don’t fly or jump but they climb onto your skin or clothes if you brush against something that they’re on, they then bite into the skin and start to feed on your blood.  There are many ways of reducing the risk of getting bitten, the main ones are to keep to designated footpaths, keep any dogs on a lead and wear lighter coloured clothing as the ticks will then be more visible.

Ticks are not only harmful to humans but also to all ground nesting birds on the moors as treatment for birds is impossible.  Moorland estates try to reduce the risk of ticks by having a good flock of sheep on the moors as the sheep act as “tick mops”.  The sheep are dipped in a pesticide that attracts ticks and kills them off in huge numbers, and this has been welcomed as an effective and harmless method in the fight against ticks.

It is thought only a small proportion of ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, so being bitten doesn’t mean you’ll definitely be infected. However, it’s important to be aware of the risk and seek medical advice if you start to feel unwell.  Generally, you’re more likely to become infected if the tick remains attached to your skin for more than 24 hours, however ticks are very small and their bites are not particularly painful, so you may not even realise you have one attached to your skin.

Lyme disease can usually be treated effectively if it’s detected early on, but if it’s not treated or treatment is delayed, there’s a risk it could develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.  If a tick bites an animal carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, the tick can also become infected. The tick can then transfer the bacteria to a human by biting them.

The image below shows the before feeding and also the engorged tick after feeding.

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For more details on ticks and Lyme Disease please visit the Lyme Disease Action Organisation at the link below, they have a massively informative website with all areas covered.

http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/