Joining a number of MSP's at a cross-party event in the Scottish Parliament, Mr McDonald met with Lyme Disease UK to hear about their national awareness campaign, 'Wake Up to Lyme'. The campaign aims to prevent further infections this summer by improving public awareness of the disease.
"Lyme Disease is a genuine problem in this country. There are a growing number of new cases every year, with many in the North East of Scotland where my Aberdeen Donside constituency is based. Lyme disease is contracted by a tick bite and if not recognised and treated correctly in the early stages can have a devastating impact on health leaving sufferers disabled. Many people can go months or even years without being aware they have contracted Lyme Disease leaving the bacteria to attack their body, which is why it is so crucial to promote awareness among the public.
"I met with patients to discuss how to increase awareness and prevent Lyme disease. We had a number of interesting conversations on what action can also be taken to improve testing, diagnosis and treatment for sufferers. I will be following the campaign closely, and in the meantime, I would encourage everyone to be vigilant all year round, and make sure you are aware of the risk of tick bites."
What is Lyme disease?
- Lyme disease is caused by a spirochaetal bacteria called Borrelia.
- It is the most common human tick-borne infectious disease in the northern hemisphere and there are multiple strains of the bacteria.
- It is endemic across the United Kingdom, particularly in woodland or heath-land areas as well as urban parks and gardens. Lyme disease is not restricted to rural hotspots.
- The most distinctive symptom is a bull’s-eye rash, but some experts say that less than 50% of infected patients experience a rash. Rashes can also be atypical in presentation.
- A bull’s-eye rash is diagnostic of Lyme disease, no blood test is required and treatment should begin immediately.
- Other early symptoms can be nonspecific such as fevers, chills, headaches, fatigue and changes in behaviour (particularly in children). If left untreated, there can be severe complications including joint pain, cardiac, problems, chronic pain and neurological issues. Symptoms often fluctuate and this can be a hallmark of the illness.
- Lyme disease can mimic many other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, depression and even Alzheimer’s.
Facts and stats
- Lyme disease is not a notifiable infection in the UK. Public Health England states there are around 3,000 cases per year in the UK. However, Lyme Disease UK estimates the true figure could be far higher. There is a huge discrepancy and the true number of new cases is unknown.
- WHO have confirmed there is a 65% increase in Lyme disease worldwide each year. Even with a conservative extrapolation this would reach epidemic levels by 2028.
- A study showed 12% of grey squirrels in North of England and Scotland carry Lyme, meaning that 12% of ticks which have fed from squirrels also carry Lyme.
- In a study, 4% of Scottish blood bank donors tested positive for Lyme disease. Blood donations are not routinely tested.
- A study recently completed by PHE showed UK urban ticks showed up to 18% infection rates.
- The Big Tick project found 1 in 3 dogs actually had a tick on them that the owner did not know about.
- Warmer winters mean ticks are active year round.
- There is no proven minimum attachment time for an infected tick to transmit disease.
- Based on a survey of 500 chronic patients, 75% are too unwell to work full time or at all.
For more information on Lyme Disease UK visit: www.lymediseaseuk.com