If you are a dog owner, you may well have seen signs at your local vets warning you about the dangers of tick bites. But just how dangerous are tick bites to humans?
Well, research in the US suggests that if left undiagnosed a tick bite can be life-altering and can even prove fatal.
Wikipedia explains ‘If untreated, symptoms may include loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face, joint pains, severe headaches with neck stiffness, or heart palpitations, among others. Months to years later, repeated episodes of joint pain and swelling may occur. Occasionally, people develop shooting pains or tingling in their arms and legs. Despite appropriate treatment, about 10 to 20% of people develop joint pains, memory problems, and feel tired for at least six months.’
And despite a gap in any reported research, knowledge and understanding of Lyme disease here in the UK, Lyme disease is the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere – estimated to affect 300,000 people a year in the United States and 65,000 people a year in Europe
The growing human and financial cost of Lyme disease makes for sober reading. Nobody knows this more than Emma Dolan Horlock.
Once a well-respected Liverpool business owner, Emma is now bed-bound with debilitating symptoms, her life, she says, is on hold.
Emma adds: “Just two months after being bitten in the US, I was suddenly faced with chronic widespread pain, heart problems, thyroid issues and neurological problems.
“But there are huge issues with receiving treatment for Lyme Disease here in the UK. Doctors here are not trained properly to recognise and treat the symptoms in their early stages, therefore misdiagnoses are incredibly common.
“I have suffered with the effects of Lyme Disease for 10 years now. I have a growing list of ailments and endless health problems related to my condition. I honestly fear for my future.”
Since she was diagnosed in 2014, Emma has been a campaigner for Lyme Disease sufferers and has challenged health professionals on why the condition so under-recognised in the UK.
With little option, Emma decided to travel to the US last year to receive treatment not currently offered here in the UK. Treatment is costly and coupled with the added cost of travelling, Emma began to fundraise in order to get the help she desperately needed.
In two weeks time Emma returns to the US for her second round of treatment, which she hopes will be the start of her recovery.
Emma warns that Lyme Disease is an epidemic and says that more awareness is vital.
“Data gathered by the World Health Organisation shows that the number of cases of Lyme Disease has increased by 65% eache year for the past 20 years, and it’s getting worse.
“Global warming has allowed ticks to survive at higher altitudes and more northern latitudes. In the US more people are found to have Lyme than Breast Cancer or HIV.
“I’m desperately concerned that more must be done to halt a crisis.”
Celebrities including Yolanda Foster, Avril Lavigne and most recently Kelly Osbourne have opened up about their struggles with Lyme Disease, paving the way for open debate.
Emma continues: “Thanks to lobbying and the excellent work of organisations like Caudwell Lyme and Lyme Disease UK, people are beginning to take notice.
“I am delighted to say there is now also an all-parliamentary group chaired by Simon Hoare M.P. who are taking this disease seriously.”
On March 29, The New Scientist magazine published a report suggesting impending outbreaks of the disease in previously unaffected areas and warned it is vital that people are aware of the potential impact of tick bites.
Emma concludes: “My message to you as we approach World Lyme Day on May 1 is to put pressure on our health services and powers that be that we educate, inform and importantly treat this devastating and dangerous disease.
“Please do not allow people to die through ignorance.
“I have been battling Lyme for over a decade now, misdiagnosed and therefore mistreated. Working together can save lives.
“It is a sad but true fact that advancements in awareness, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease in the UK have been brought by Lyme patients who have fought for their voice to be heard. Patients like me.”
For more information on how to protect yourself and your family from tick bites, visit https://lymediseaseuk.com/2016/02/10/tick-bite-prevention-and-removal/