Lyme Disease and Ticks
We came across this article produced by '' and thought it to be valuable information that anyone walking and exploring the countryside should know about.

Rambler's Association Fact Sheet No 15 warns that Lyme Disease is "a rare illness but has recently started to occur more frequntly and the risk of infection cannot be ignored. It is caused by bacteria carried by ticks. People who walk in the countryside though rough vegetation (especially bracken) are most at risk" especially from April to October.

Symptoms often include a red blotch or a circular rash several centimetres across in the bite area. This appears between a week and a month after the bite occurred. Flu-like symptoms such as tiredness, aching and fever might occur. More serious problems such as neurological, joint problems and chronic arthritis can develop.

The Ramblers' Association state that the tick needs to be attached to the body for at least 24 to 36 hours in order to transmit the bacteria, but recent research (at the web page link below) shows this not to be the case. Anyway, remove the tick with tweezers or long nails, and wash hands and the bite area afterwards with disinfectant. Grasp it firmly as close to the skin as possible and pull it steadily out without squashing it. (For a tick remover costing about 5 pounds including p&p, phone SJH Products on 01948 780 624. "It removes the entire tick, reducing the risk of disease transmission.") Take the tick with you to the doctor for analysis.

To guard against ticks: Keep trousers tucked into socks or wear insect repellant. Examine your body for ticks in the backs of the knees, groin, under the arms and on the scalp.

For further information see or send an SAE to the Ramblers' Association at 1-5 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2XX.

In an article in the Daily Telegraph (June 29th '99) Angela Knight writes that she caught Lyme Disease in Berkshire, from this tiny tick no bigger than a poppy seed. The first symptoms were red circles on her arm with a white bump in the centre, which grew bigger and redder to some five inches. In the subsequent months, after the circles disappeared, her memory became muddled, her writing was often jumbled, her muscles and joints ached, she had blinding headaches, hot flushes, jumpy visions and tingling - not to mention depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, loss of weight, diarrhoea and thrush.

Eventually a blood test (which has previously proved negative) showed that she did have Lyme Disease. In Britain it seems that 30 per cent of ticks carry the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium which causes the disease. The hotspots are areas where deer are common such as the New Forest, Exmoor, Richmond Park, Scotland and Thetford Forest, but evidently the infected ticks can be found elsewhere.

The recommended way Angela Knight reports to remove a tick from one's body is to cover it with petroleum jelly for 10 to 15 minutes, then, using tweezers, to remove it and to clean the site with a disinfectant.

After antibiotics, and a year later, Angela Knight is still not sure whether all her symptoms will eventually disappear.

However, an article in the NewScientist (Oct 9th 1999) suggested that it is pheasants which mainly carry the parasite in the UK and that if the rearing of pheasants in artificially high numbers for shooting were banned then Lyme Disease "would almost certainly disappear from the UK within a year". A subsequent letter in New Scientist (Nov 6th 1999) says there are three kinds of Lyme's Disease: pheasants, blackbirds and some seabirds are hosts for Borrelia garinni, which affects the nervous system; small mammals, such as mice, squirrels and hedgehogs, are hosts to both Borrelia burdorferi (which causes arthiritis) and to afzelli (which affects the skin). "It is unlikely that a reduction in the density of one host species would prevent the circulation of all Lyme Disease bacteria."

'Reprinted with permission from, the website for self-organised group walks in the green belt near London'

The Webmaster received an e-mail from a resident of North Carolina ['tick country' apparently] which sheds some new light on removing ticks...

"It is now not recommended to put anything on the tick before removal. It is traditional here to put petroleum jelly on the tick, or kerosene, or anything else irritating, or to apply heat (as in a lighted match). However, if you do any of these things, the tick will be stimulated to regurgitate stomach contents into the wound before it is removed. In other words, you will have disease organisms injected directly into the wound, if the tick is a carrier. This greatly increases the chance of disease transmittal.

Medical authorities now say to simply pull the tick out as soon as possible, and not to apply anything to the tick beforehand. It is also highly recommended to use tweezers, a tick removal tool, or at least paper towel so that the tick is not handled directly. The reason to use paper towel is because the disease organisms can enter small cuts/cracks in the skin of the fingers, and sometimes it's not possible to disinfect the fingers immediately after removing the tick (out on a long walk, for instance)."

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