NHS Scotland urge walkers to cover up following increase in disease-carrying bugs

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NHS Scotland are urging walkers to ditch shorts and t-shirts and fully cover up following an increase in disease-carrying insects.

The healthcare body has issued a guide advising the public how to stay safe after figures revealed there has been a 65% increase in Lyme disease cases in the country since 2000.

If left untreated the disease, which is spread by blood sucking ticks, could go on to severely affect many body parts including the brain, nerves, eyes, joints, and heart.

The document reads: “Ticks are small spider-like creatures that can be found on bushes and undergrowth in Scotland’s countryside, parks and gardens from spring through summer and well into autumn.

“You can reduce your chances of being bitten by covering skin which may come into contact with plants, wearing long trousers tucked into boots, long sleeves and using an insect repellent.

“You should always check carefully for ticks after being in the outdoors.

“Remember to check skin folds, arms, the groin and wristbands where ticks are often found.

“Ticks can crawl under cuffs, so it;s very important to check for them, even if you’ve been well covered up.”

In Scotland, confirmed cases of Lyme disease has risen from 37 in 2000 to 224 in 2015.

Popular walking areas such as the Highlands and the Hebrides reported the highest
numbers – accounting for 160 cases in the past four years.

Nicola Seal, a former entomologist, caught the disease while visiting Rum in the Highlands and had to arrange private treatment in the States because the NHS failed to identify the disease.

Ms Seal, suffered meningitis symptoms and was left unable to walk, after being bitten by a single tick.

She said: “It was so debilitating. I couldn’t lift a kettle or chop vegetables and would get muddled, often putting the milk in the microwave and my keys in the fridge.

“When I did get better I was told that I had a psychiatric problem and was sent to see a psychiatrist.”

Alexander Burnett, Conservative MSP for Aberdeenshire West, said: “The World Health
Organisation has confirmed that there has been a 65% increase in Lyme disease cases
worldwide and those are only the reported cases.

“In our NHS we need to educate staff to ensure that, when they review symptoms, they do not exclude the possibility of Lyme disease.”

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, creates symptoms such as headaches, fever and fatigue.

Researchers have discovered that people in Scotland are most likely to come into contact with the infected ticks during August and September.

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