Fears over Lyme disease as ticks flourish-Daily Mail September 2006
(Editors note. The symptoms of Lyme disease are sometimes misdiagnosed as FM)
Rising temperatures have sparked a boom in the number of ticks carrying a dangerous blood-borne disease, experts have warned.
The increase in levels of the insect has put people in danger of contracting Lyme Disease, which if left undiagnosed can trigger serious heart and joint problems.
The rise was noticed after scientists were instructed by the Government to investigate why increasing numbers of farm animals were developing a virus transmitted by the parasites. They found there had been an apparent rise in ticks in recent months in Britain and warned this also had alarming implications for humans.
Last year there were 600 laboratory-confirmed cases of Lyme Disease in England and Wales, however some believe as many as 2,000 people may now be catching it every year. People are particularly at risk when in forests or in long grass where they are more likely to be bitten by the insects.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) commissioned Professor Sarah Randolph from the Zoology Department at Oxford University to investigate what was triggering the rise.
Although her work will not be completed for another year, she already has results back from 136 locations across the country.
Based on the findings so far, she concluded: "Evidence does seem to indicate an increase in tick numbers. Everyone does seem to be concerned with an increase in incidence of certain diseases.
"Then there is also the very important issue of ticks' hosts which are mostly deer in the UK and also sheep and cattle."
The disease is caused by a bacteria which ticks carry and is transmitted into the person when it begins to draw blood.
Lyme Disease was discovered following a cluster of cases in the 1970s among young people living in Old Lyme in Connecticut, USA, however it is thought to have been around in Europe since the 1880s.
It often begins with flu-like symptoms and then several days or weeks later 60 per cent of people notice an expanding rash. At this stage it can be treated with antibiotics, but if it is allowed to progress it can become very difficult to beat.
It can then lead to long-term fatigue, plus create problems in the heart, joints and nervous system.
Earlier this year long-distance runner Kirsty Waterson who once represented Britain, told how contracting Lyme Disease had devastated her career.
After being bitten during a race in Suffolk she did not think much of it, but months later it was diagnosed as Lyme Disease.
She is now left with terrible fatigue and suffers headaches which seem to be made worse by her training. It has left her unable to regain her fitness - or her place in the athletics world.
"I still feel I am not over it," she said. "It has affected my life quite seriously."
Concern about growing numbers of ticks in Britain was sparked by a recent rise in cases of louping-ill, a virus transmitted by ticks, in farm animals.
Professor Randolph believes the rise could be due to extra numbers of deer, which tend to be one of the best hosts for the insects, or climate change.
There has been a reported rise in all kinds of biting insects this year thanks to the combination of a wet May followed by a warm June and sweltering July which created ideal breeding conditions.
Gardeners in July reported more mosquito bites than normal and a rise in numbers of ants and horsefiles.
Just last month it also emerged that bedbugs are back in the UK thanks to holidaymakers who have brought them back with them in their luggage.