Tick alert issued across East Devon

Ticks on a thumb - showing all stages to scale

Ticks on a thumb - showing all stages to scale - Credit: Archant

Tiny blood-sucking creatures can cause serious illness, warn experts

A nymph tick can be hard to spot

A nymph tick can be hard to spot - Credit: Archant

The warming weather is bringing the ticks out - and it’s not just pets that are at risk!

Ticks are blood sucking members of the spider family and the stage that attaches to humans is very small - about the size of a poppy seed. Easy to miss clinging on behind your knee!

Ticks can be found all over East Devon - anywhere in rough vegetation that protects the ticks from drying out. This can be in woods, commons, long grass beside footpaths and even shady garden shrubberies.

Ticks can transmit several diseases, but the most common in the UK is Lyme disease.

A typical Lyme disease rash

A typical Lyme disease rash - Credit: Archant

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Patricia Cartwright probably contracted the illness from a tick in her Lyme Regis garden.

She said: “I felt exhausted, had heavy sweats and my body ached all over as if I had flu.”

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Knowing about Lyme disease she asked her GP for a blood test and was treated with antibiotics.

“It took two courses to improve things and for months I did a lot less gardening because it affected my energy levels.”

Not all ticks carry infection, but it is important to check for ticks and remove any properly without squashing it, as soon as possible. Pets can bring ticks into the house, so it is important to check them as well.

Lyme disease causes a wide range of symptoms in humans, which may include a spreading red, non-itchy rash, headaches, a stiff neck, extreme fatigue, muscle and joint pain and light and sound sensitivity.

Diagnosed and treated at an early stage, it is usually curable with antibiotics, but if untreated it can spread to joints, heart and the central nervous system. Lyme disease is increasing in the UK and many more cases are being diagnosed across East Devon.

The charity Lyme Disease Action is holding an awareness day next Tuesday, May 10, in Sidbury Village Hall. There will be a talk at 2.15pm, followed by discussion.

Volunteers will provide information on tick identification, bite prevention and correct removal. There will be leaflets available and posters, should anyone wish to help in raising awareness. The charity has a number of volunteer positions available for anyone who would like to be involved.

“Awareness is key,” said Stella Huyshe-Shires, chairman of Lyme Disease Action.

“We are steadily improving knowledge amongst GPs as well as the public, and working to influence research and improve diagnosis and treatment.”

Essential information on ticks and Lyme disease is available for the public and for doctors on the LDA website http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/ including links to Public Health England and NICE.

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