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New warning to be 'tick aware'

Monday, 20 May 2013

A campaign designed to remind Hampshire residents and visitors to be 'tick aware' this summer includes new leaflets on how to prevent tick bites and reduce the risk of contracting Lyme disease.

Part of a national programme by Public Health England (PHE), the campaign aims to raise awareness of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses among health professionals and the public. Ticks are small, spider-like creatures most common in late spring, summer and autumn. a tick is the size of a poppy seed and once detected, it is important to remove the tick with tweezers as soon as possible to reduce the risk of getting bitten and becoming ill. Most ticks do not carry the infection but any area where ticks are present could be a potential risk for Lyme disease.

Dr Ruth Milton, Hampshire's Director of Public Health said: "We want people to go out and enjoy the countryside this summer but it's important to be aware of ticks which can bite and lead to unpleasant illnesses such as Lyme disease. The new leaflets help explain the risks and how to avoid and treat tick bites.

"As there is currently no effective vaccine against Lyme disease, the most important ways to protect yourself and your family are by being 'tick aware', avoiding tick infested areas, wearing the right clothing where ticks are more common and quickly removing any attached ticks.

"Not all tick bites result in disease, but some can transmit bacteria that cause diseases such as Lyme disease, which can lead to very serious conditions if left untreated. Symptoms of Lyme disease can include a circular rash, tiredness and muscle and joint pain.

"Lyme disease can be contracted in parks, gardens and rural areas across most of the country, and is common in areas such as the New Forest and South Downs. Therefore it is important to raise awareness of this disease amongst our residents and those who visit the area."

Since June 2012 1,928 samples from Hampshire have been tested for Lyme Disease by Public Health England's Rare and Imported Pathogens Department at Porton Down. Of these, 190 were found to be positive for Lyme Disease - approximately 10%. Most cases occurred between June and August, however not all samples necessarily belong to Hampshire residents as the data reflects samples sent from hospital laboratories within Hampshire rather than residents. The positive rate of around 10% is consistent across the UK.

Cases are often the result of outdoor activities including camping, walking, hiking and mountain-biking, where tick exposure is more likely.

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