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Lyme Disease Caused By Tick Bites Grossly Under-Esitmated In The UK

Unionsafety has long covered the debilitating disease caused by Tick bites known as Lyme Disease, and the debilitating and sometimes deadly affects of the disease which, if left unchecked, can even affect the central nervous system of it's victims.

Up until now most studies have centred on the USA population, but now a new study has been conducted in the UK and the results are very alarming.

The incidence of Lyme Disease in the UK is about threefold higher than previously estimated, and people are at risk throughout the whole of the UK.

These results should lead to increased awareness of the need for preventive measures. Greater awareness of the risks may also lead to more rapid diagnosis and treatment which is important to prevent long-term morbidity, according to the latest research published on the BJM Open website.

This study represented the largest single investigation ever done in the UK with the aim of establishing the true extent of Lyme Disease infections amongst the UK population. It was taken from GP patients records between 2001 to 2013 with data extracted from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), a primary care database covering about 8% of the population in the UK in 658 primary care practices.

The study was based on a cohort of 8.4 million individuals registered with general practitioners with 52.4 million person-years of observation between 1 January 2001 and 31 December 2012. Lyme Disease was identified from recorded medical codes, notes indicating LD, laboratory tests and use of specific antibiotics. Annual incidence rates and the estimated total number of LD cases were calculated separately for each UK region.

The researchers categorised diagnoses of Lyme disease as those that had been diagnosed clinically (42%), suspected and treated (47%), or considered possible and treated (11%).

This broke down to an age demographic of:

a 20% incident of those treated being in their 40s,

just over 18% being in their 50s

just over 17% being in their 60s

Gender specific breakdown was around half the cases were among women and girls (53%) with half the cases having occurred in the summer.

Scotland had the highest number of Lyme disease cases, possibly because of its wetter climate and popularity as a hiking destination, the researchers said.

It was closely followed by South Central and South West England – but all regions of the UK were affected.

The annual total number of cases recorded in the CPRD increased from 60 in 2001 to 595 in 2012.

The figure for 2012 is around three times higher than previous estimates have suggested, which means if these trends continue, the number of new UK cases could top 8,000 this year, the researchers said.

Lyme Disease is caused by tick bites, and literally any open green space can be a home for ticks - from forests to the local park and hedge rows. The picture above, shows the identifying mark of a tick bite - a bullseye.

Lyme Disease symptoms can include the main early symptom of a bull’s eye rash around the tick bite, however not all people will experience this which can make diagnosis tricky.

The rash can appear up to three months after being bitten, although many appear within the first month. In most cases, the rash will last for several weeks – during which time you should see a GP.

Other early symptoms of Lyme include aching joints and muscles, headaches, tiredness, and a high temperature. You might feel like you have flu.

Dr Tim Brooks, clinical services director of the Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory at Public Health England, says that cases of Lyme disease with a characteristic bullseye rash will be diagnosed based on the patient’s symptoms, meaning they won’t need laboratory testing.

“So numbers of laboratory-confirmed cases underestimate the total number of new Lyme disease cases each year,” he explained.

You can download the full study report from the Unionsafety E-Library using search words 'tick bite'.

Source: Huffington Post / Unionsafety

See also:

Lyme Disease – Patients Languish While Facts Are Buried

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