Tick-borne disease charity BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK) and Patron Ray Mears are warning people to be especially vigilant in rural areas over the coming months.
The charity is using its annual awareness campaign Tick Bite Prevention Week (26 March - 1 April) to highlight the increased risk of contracting tick-borne diseases following the EU ban of Asulam, a herbicide used by hill farmers to control the invasive spread of bracken. This plant provides a perfect habitat for ticks.
Ticks are second only to mosquitoes for carrying disease to humans worldwide and are responsible for transmitting Lyme disease (Borreliosis), which can lead to serious complications including damage to the nervous system, joints, heart and other tissues.
Latest figures from the Health Protection Agency show that 953 laboratory-confirmed cases of Lyme disease (Borreliosis), which is contracted from an infected tick bite, were reported in England and Wales in 2010.
Two-thirds of these were identified in the South of England but have also been reported from most counties. Infections occur most frequently in Exmoor, the New Forest, the South Downs, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, Surrey and West Sussex, Thetford Forest, the Lake District and the North York Moors. However, the Health Protection Agency states that any area where Ixodid ticks are present should be regarded as a potential risk area.
Authorities acknowledge an under reporting of cases and estimate that around 3,000 people contract Lyme disease each year in the UK, whilst latest research published in January 2012 by the School of Biological Sciences, at the University of Bristol, suggests that the prevalence of Lyme disease bacteria in the UK tick population is considerably higher than most recent estimates indicated.
TV Bushcraft and Survival expert and BADA-UK Patron Ray Mears warns: "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."
BADA-UK advises that the best defence against tick-borne infection is to avoid being bitten in the first place by taking a few simple precautions when out walking. These include wearing protective clothing and using an effective insect repellent.
Wendy Fox, Chair of BADA-UK, who has been left disabled by Lyme disease, says: "We understand perhaps better than most the devastating effects that tick-borne diseases can have if not diagnosed and treated promptly.
Therefore, we strive to help prevent others from falling victim to them. People who frequent bracken-rich areas can be recreationally and occupationally exposed to tick-borne disease, particularly Lyme disease. Increased interest in outdoor pursuits, combined with an increasing tick population is resulting in a year-on-year rise in cases of tick-borne disease."
In 2012, BADA-UK and Tick Bite Prevention Week are once again being supported by Mosi-guard® Natural.