The HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre yesterday warned the public regarding the dangers of Lyme disease. Spread by tick bites, in a minority of cases it can cause severe debilitating heart and nervous system disease.
With more people engaging in outdoor pursuits during the summer months, those who work and walk in forested or grassy areas must be vigilant against tick bites, says Dr Paul McKeown, HPSC specialist in public health medicine.
"Ticks are tiny insect like creatures that feed on the blood of mammals and birds and will also feed on humans. Ticks are more numerous and more active in the summer months and protecting against tick bites protects against Lyme disease.
Dr McKeown said: “Tick bites can be prevented by wearing long trousers, long sleeved shirt and shoes, using an insect repellent, checking skin, hair and warm skin folds (especially the neck and scalp of children ) for ticks, removing any ticks, and consulting with a GP if symptoms develop.
"Only a minority of ticks carry infection. If a tick is removed within a few hours, the risk of infection is low. The entire tick, including any mouthparts which might break off, should be removed with a tweezers by grippi65g it close to the skin. The skin where the tick was found should then be washed with soap and water and the area checked over the next few weeks for swelling or redness. Anyone who develops a rash or other symptoms should visit their GP and explain that they have been bitten by a tick. Although the true incidence of Lyme disease is not known it is likely that there are at least 50 -100 cases in Ireland every year."