All Policies Include Coronavirus Cover

High-risk areas for Lyme disease announced by health officials

27 September 2017 08:30

A bullseye-shaped rash is symptomatic of Lyme disease

A bullseye-shaped rash is symptomatic of Lyme disease

People living in England's South or the Scottish Highlands are more likely to develop Lyme disease than in other parts of Britain, according to new guidance from health officials.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says the infected ticks that cause the disease are more prevalent in these areas, but warns that infection can occur anywhere.

New draft guidelines from Nice state: "Particularly high-risk areas are the South of England and Scottish Highlands but infection can occur in many areas."

Flu-like symptoms

There are estimated to be between 2,000 and 3,000 diagnoses of the condition in the England and Wales each year.

However, the health body believes this figure could be much higher, as there is no mandatory requirement for doctors to report cases, and the symptoms of Lyme disease are often difficult to diagnose.

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi which is carried by infected ticks.

The main symptom is a distinctive rash that looks similar to a bullseye on a dartboard.

Other signs include flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, fever or chills, muscle and joint pain, headaches and neck stiffness.

Doctor directions

The new guidelines will support GPs and hospital clinicians diagnose, treat and report on incidences of Lyme disease.

Saul Faust, Professor of paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Southampton and chair of Nice's guideline committee, says: "Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose as people can have common and unspecific symptoms, like a headache or fever, and they may not notice or remember a tick bite."

Nice is now calling for a large-scale study into Lyme disease, saying the data sets are incomplete and more needs to be done to identify the scope of the problem.

Anyone with Lyme disease or other existing health problems are reminded of the importance of pre-existing medical travel insurance.