Tick warning to outdoor enthusiasts

Tick-borne disease charity BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK) and Patron Ray Mears are warning farmers, walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts in Deeside and Donside to be especially vigilant whilst out in Scotland’s countryside over the coming months.

The charity is using its annual awareness campaign Tick Bite Prevention Week (March 26 - April 1) to highlight the increased risk from tick bites and tick-borne diseases following the EU ban of the herbicide, Asulam.

Asulam is the key product used by hill farmers to control the invasive spread of bracken, which provides a perfect habitat for ticks.

As part of its awareness campaign, the charity is backing a new extensive study by leading Roslin-based life sciences company Xeroshield. The study will look into public awareness in Scotland of the dangers of Lyme disease and what precautions – if any – people are taking to protect themselves from tick bites.

This research will aid Xeroshield in the potential development of an innovative device for the removal of ticks from humans and pets, combined with a laboratory service for the detection of Lyme disease in ticks collected and immobilised using the device, by determining whether there is a market for such a product and service.

Reports suggest that the tick population and its distribution is increasing, and with it comes the risk of contracting Lyme disease (Borreliosis) and other tick-borne diseases. Figures published by Health Protection Scotland in December 2011 reveal that cases of Lyme disease recorded in Scotland have increased 11-fold over the past decade, with 308 cases in 2010. However, Health Protection Scotland highlights that the true incidence of Lyme disease is unknown, due to incomplete detection and reporting of cases. Lyme disease is transmitted via the bite of an infected tick and can lead to serious complications including damage to the nervous system, joints, heart and other tissues.

TV Bushcraft and Survival expert and BADA-UK Patron Ray Mears said: “The control of bracken is vital to the survival of numerous species of flora and fauna, as well as reducing tick populations. The spread of bracken as a result of the Asulam ban will lead to increased tick numbers, making it all the more important that the public takes precautions against tick bites when out and about in rural areas.”

Ticks are second only to mosquitoes for carrying disease to humans worldwide. BADA-UK advises that the best defense against tick-borne infection is to avoid being bitten in the first place by taking a few simple precautions when out walking. A website with educational and advisory information can be found at www.tickbitepreventionweek.org