Lyme disease on the rise

THE culprit is so small that it’s difficult to see, but it can strike with deadly effect. Cases of Lyme disease are increasing in Britain and people here are again being urged to take precautions.

The disease is transmitted by tick bites and counties Cork, Kerry, and Wicklow are high-risk areas, according to Eoin Healy, who completed a doctorate on the tick population in Ireland, 40 years ago. The Co Galway region has one of the highest rates of the disease in Europe. Tick Talk Ireland is carrying out an awareness campaign, amid fears that the disease could rise here as a result of climate change. Deer, sheep, and cows are hosts to ticks that can cause the disease. They feed off the animals’ blood and have an anaesthetic in their jaws so you may not even know you have been bitten.

Lyme disease can go undiagnosed and some infected people show no symptoms. The commonest evidence of infection is a rash in about three quarters of victims. It can last up to a month and can be several inches in diameter. People can also complain of flu-like symptoms such as headache, sore throat, neck stiffness, fever, muscle aches, and general fatigue.

There may be more serious symptoms involving the nervous system, joints, or the heart. Ticks like areas of thick vegetation, fallen leaves, and tall grasses. So people are advised to avoid such areas and stick to footpaths while out walking. People are urged to wear long trousers, to use insect repellants, and to check the skin after being outdoors.

It is advised to check behind the ears, in the groin area, and at the back of the knee. If they can, people are also told to shower on their return home and to place clothes in a hot dryer to kill off any remaining ticks. Children, too, should be checked. Pets should also be examined for loose, or attached, ticks to prevent them being brought into the house.

Kerry Labour senator Marie Moloney has previously highlighted extra risks in Killarney because of the area’s large deer population. See also, ticktalkireland.org

As part of the annual series of autumn talks, under the aegis of Killarney National Park, Dr Healy will speak on ticks and Lyme disease, on October 15. A research associate in UCC, his studies on ticks have been published in international scientific journals.

On October 8, Ciaran Nugent will address the subject, Safeguarding Our Forests; on October 22, the focus will be on Japanese Knotweed, with Jane Jackson; on October 29, Tim Horgan will tell of historic events in Killarney National Park; on November 5, Chris Barron will talk on Making Space for Nature, while on November 12, Lynda O’Connor and Emma Morrissey will tell of rare fish and their welfare in Killarney lakes. All talks will be in the Killarney Plaza Hotel at 8pm.


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