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Fighting Lyme disease

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Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK (BADA-UK) is a charity formed by a group of volunteers who were brought together by the effects of borreliosis, or Lyme disease, and associated infections. It is caused by spirochete bacteria of the genus Borrelia, and is transmitted primarily by ticks and lice. The charity’s aim is to raise public awareness of the dangers of tick-borne diseases, and 26 March 2012 marks the start of Tick Bite Prevention Week in the UK.

Borreliosis is the most common tick-borne disease in the UK, and its incidence has increased in recent years. There are several reasons for this, including a milder year-round climate, and an increase in the number of people engaging in outdoor activities. Changes in certain agricultural practices, such as a reduction in sheep-dipping and moorland burning also reduce the curbing of the tick population.

There were 1,053 laboratory confirmed cases of borreliosis in England and Wales in 2010, and it is estimated that a further 1,000 to 2,000 went undiagnosed. Diagnosis is difficult because the disease can produce a bewildering array of symptoms, most of which resemble other diseases. In more than half of cases, the patient has no recollection of being bitten. The only specific symptom is the erythema migrans rash which occurs in less than half of cases. Doxycycline is the treatment of choice, with amoxicillin being used in children.

Once a tick has attached itself to a host it is important that it is removed correctly, as incorrect removal can lead to further complications. If the tick’s head remains attached, abscesses can form, and squeezing the abdomen can result in the tick’s stomach contents entering the host’s bloodstream, which can lead to septicaemia. There are only two safe ways to remove a tick — with fine-tipped tweezers, or with a tick-removal tool.

 

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