Ticks abound both sides of the Atlantic

Ticks are making their presence felt both sides of the Atlantic. The British public is being warned to take precautions against ticks following a rise in the tick population after a wet and mild summer.

Weather conditions have seen a sharp rise in the numbers of the blood-sucking parasite along with increased cases of Lyme disease in Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire.

Lyme disease is a highly infectious disease which is transmitted through tick bites and can lead to blindness, paralysis and even death if left undiagnosed.

Ticks predominantly live in woodland and scrub areas

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) say most cases of Lyme disease occur between late summer and early winter and advise visitors to the countryside to wear trousers, use insect repellent and check their skin for ticks.

According to the HPA tick numbers have risen because of the mild winter of 2006, followed by a long wet, humid period.

Experts say Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi which enters the blood stream when the tick attaches to the host.

The most common symptom is a slowly expanding rash that spreads out from a tick bite, usually after about 5 to 14 days but other symptoms also include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.

The variety of symptoms means it can easily be mistaken for something else and it is often misdiagnosed.

Experts say incidents have increased by 90% since 2006 across the UK, and the New Forest, the South Downs, Dorset and Berkshire have now been named as tick hot-spots.

While most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics if they are spotted, if left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.

Removal of the tick within 24 hours also helps to stop the transmission of bacteria.

Meanwhile in Canada, Lyme disease sufferers gathered last week on Parliament Hill to bring attention to Lyme disease which they say Canadian doctors are frequently failing to identify.

The sufferers are demanding better testing for the disease and more federal money to be devoted to research into the disease; many in the group say they were misdiagnosed by their physicians.

Ticks are predominantly found in parts of British Columbia, southern and eastern Ontario, southeastern Manitoba and parts of Nova Scotia.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Lyme disease is not a nationally reportable disease in Canada, so there are no statistics available on its prevalence.

The disease is predominantly found in parts of British Columbia, southern and eastern Ontario, southeastern Manitoba and parts of Nova Scotia.

Many at the rally say their disease was not diagnosed and they became very ill before the correct diagnosis was reached by which time the damage was done.

Experts at PHAC's Zoonotic Disease and Special Pathogens section, admit the disease is difficult to recognize, and say tests are not always accurate.

The campaigners want to bring attention to the issue and the growing problem of Lyme disease.

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