Public Health Wales is advising people who are planning a trip outdoors to be tick aware. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and infections are more likely to occur in late spring, early summer and autumn. Most people are infected while participating in outdoor activities, such as walking, mountain biking, trekking or camping, both in the UK and overseas.
There were 39 cases of Lyme disease in 2017, according to provisional figures released by Public Health Wales. Ten cases were acquired overseas.
Wales has reported an average of 20 cases per year since 2009. According to Public Health England laboratory-confirmed reports of Lyme borreliosis in England & Wales have risen steadily since reporting began in 1986. An average of 15% of diagnosed cases is known to have been acquired abroad.
Dr Robert Smith, Lead for Zoonoses and Gastrointestinal Infections at Public Health Wales, said:
“Ticks are very small – about the size of a poppy seed – and can easily be overlooked.
“The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a slowly expanding rash that spreads out from a tick bite, usually becoming noticeable after about three to 14 days. It is not usually painful or itchy but can sometimes be very pale in colour. It may grow over many weeks if not treated with antibiotics but will eventually disappear even without treatment.
“Other symptoms include tiredness, headaches, aches and pains in muscles and joints.
“If the infection is untreated, the bacteria may spread through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, including the nervous system, joints and organs.
“It is important that infections are recognised and treated at an early stage to avoid the risk of developing these more serious complications.”
Most ticks do not carry the infection and infected ticks are very unlikely to transmit the disease if they are removed within 18-24 hours.
Ticks can be removed by gently gripping them as close to the skin as possible, preferably using fine-toothed tweezers or tick removers (available at pet stores), and pulling steadily away from the skin. Do not use lighted cigarette ends or match heads to remove ticks, or smother ticks with gel or creams.
Public Health Wales advises people to:
- Keep to paths and avoid long grass
- Wear long-sleeves and long trousers tucked into socks in tick-infested areas. Ticks are easier to see against tight-coloured fabrics.
- Use a DEET-containing insect repellent
- Inspect skin frequently, especially armpits, groin and waistband – particularly at the end of the day – and remove any attached ticks
- Inspect children’s head and neck areas, including scalps
- Check ticks are not brought home on clothes
- Check pets do not bring ticks into the home on their fur