Kerry may erect signs amid risk of Lyme disease

Kerry may be the first county to erect signs warning walkers and outdoor adventurers about the risks of the highly debilitating Lyme disease.

The disease is spread by ticks from deer and other animals in the county, famed for its outdoor tourist attractions.

Lyme disease has remained high profile in the Kingdom after a former Kerry footballer became a casualty and spoke out.

Consultation between Kerry Co Council and public health officers along with the wildlife services follows a motion by Tralee-based councillor Norma Foley.

“We need to encourage people involved in outdoor pursuits to be vigilant,” she warned.

“We should show leadership in this county about the risks involved,” said Ms Foley, a teacher.

While the disease is primarily “a HSE issue”, she said it was hugely important for Kerry with its reliance on the outdoors and popularity of walking.

The small ticks associated with Lyme disease need to be attached to the body a number of hours before passing on the infection.

Ms Foley said “signage would be of benefit” encouraging people to remove the ticks promptly.

The Killarney National Park has a high incidence of ticks with Lyme disease, other county councillors have claimed. However, public representatives said they did not wish to cause scaremongering but wanted people to be aware of the risks.

Ex-inter county footballer Anthony Morris is reportedly extremely ill at the moment, and receiving treatment in the US. He has been battling with chronic Lyme disease for eight years and a number of fundraisers have been held this summer for the popular father-of-one.

While the HSE did not provide information, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre ( HPSC) said Lyme is “an uncommon infection” spread by infected biting ticks. Summer is the worst time for it with “protection” the best form of prevention, HPSC specialist Dr Paul McKeown said.

Lyme disease can, in a small number of cases, cause severe debilitating heart and nervous system disease.

The tiny ticks live on mammals such as deer and birds and occasionally dogs.

Covering exposed skin seems to be the best advice but the tiny creatures also need to be repelled by smell.

A rash or an expanding area of redness is the most common sign of infection about a week after the bite. Fever, headache and joint pains are other symptoms.

The tick will have to be attached up to 48 hours before it transmits the bacteria. A high awareness about the disease exists in Killarney, with insect repellent in high demand, medical care sources said. This summer, several people who sustained other insect bites presented themselves at pharmacies concerned about the risk of Lyme disease.

Pharmacist Joan Willms with Bradley Chemists in the top tourist town said many people are worried in case lumps which emerged after midge bites were in fact from a tick and expressed fear about diseases. Meanwhile, Kerry County Council chief executive Moira Murrell gave assurances the local authority would assist health and wildlife agencies on erecting signs.

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