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8 March 2016

UK Lyme disease rise highlights role for vets in awareness campaign
Big Tick Project team says study will have implications for human and animal health

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND, 8 March 2016 – New figures suggesting a rise in cases of people testing positive for Lyme disease in the UK last year highlight the need for greater awareness of tick-borne disease among vets and pet owners according to the team behind the Bravecto Big Tick Project.

The figures released by Public Health England show that people testing positive and showing symptoms of Lyme disease rose by just over one third during the summer of 2015.

During the third quarter of 2015, PHE says there were a total of 421 cases of laboratory confirmed Lyme disease reported, compared with 300 during the third quarter of 2014. Of these cases, 340 were acute cases of the disease where the sufferers experienced sudden and severe symptoms. The tick mapping and analysis project, conducted over the summer of 2015, involved the collection of ticks from dogs brought into veterinary practices the length and breadth of Britain. Ticks sent into Bristol University are currently being analysed with full results from the study expected in June this year.

Chris Packham said: “The rise in the number of confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the UK reported by Public Health England suggests the need for greater awareness of this damaging illness. Vets have a huge part to play in educating pet owners.”

Chris Packham added: “As well as highlighting the risks that ticks present to both human and companion animal health we need to be more alert to the signs and symptoms of tick-borne disease and the sensible steps we can all take to protect ourselves and our animals.”

Professor Richard Wall who has led Bristol University’s Big Tick Project team said: “Given the reported increase in cases of Lyme disease, the results of the Big Tick Project study will help us to understand these changes both in terms of the longer seasonal activity of ticks and their increasingly widespread geographic location and could have important implications for both human and animal health by quantifying the diversity and prevalence of the pathogens they may be carrying.”

According to the NHS around 2,000 to 3,000 people in the UK are affected by Lyme Disease each year but charities campaigning for greater awareness of the disease suggest this could be as many as 15,000.

Growing concern over the rise in the tick-borne infection has prompted Government ministers to set up a network of regional experts to help diagnose and treat the problem.

Last autumn, Health Minister Lord Prior told a House of Lords debate: “Some patients suffer debilitating illness with symptoms that persist after treatment for several months or longer.”

Lord Prior revealed that the Department of Health is to set up a network of experts around the country to support GPs and hospital staff most of whom have never seen cases of the disease. The increase in the disease is being blamed on rising numbers of tick populations which are active for longer due to climate change, a rise in numbers of wild mammals such as deer that host them.

The clinical signs of Lyme disease in dogs include recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only three to four days either in the same leg or in other legs and the joints may be swollen, warm, and painful. In some cases, kidney failure may occur and the dog may exhibit such signs as vomiting, diarrhoea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst.