07 April 2017
Islanders are being advised to be ‘tick aware’ in order to minimise the risk of tick bites which could potentially cause Lyme disease.
Following a laboratory-confirmed case of Lyme disease in Jersey in 2015 that is believed to have been acquired locally, surveillance has taken place to determine whether the Island has conditions that can sustain Lyme disease, a disease transmitted by certain species of ticks.
The results of the survey, which involved the collection and analysis of tick samples from vegetation, identified a proportion of the samples as ticks of the species which may carry the bacteria that causes Lyme; furthermore, this bacteria was found to be present in some of the ticks analysed.
The analysis showed that ticks in Jersey may carry the agent that causes Lyme disease and have the potential to transmit it to people, dogs and other animals, prompting the alert from officials at the Department of the Environment and the Health and Social Services Department.
It is being stressed that the risk of catching Lyme in Jersey is very low; in spite of the increased surveillance in the past two years, there has only been one further locally-acquired, laboratory-confirmed case. Nevertheless, it is important that Islanders, especially walkers and dog owners, are made aware of the situation so they can become tick aware, particularly given the onset of warmer weather when ticks are known to be more active.
Most ticks do not carry the infection, however, once an attached tick is detected, it is important to remove the tick carefully with tweezers or a tick removal tool as soon as possible – such tools can be bought from pet shops/suppliers. Ticks that have not yet attached should also be removed.
Typically those affected by Lyme disease develop a rash, which gradually spreads from the site of the tick bite. The rash can cover a large area and last for weeks if left untreated. Some patients may develop ‘flu-like’ symptoms as well.
Dr Ivan Muscat, Consultant Microbiologist at Jersey General Hospital, said that treatment was available and shown to be effective.
“Early Lyme disease can be treated very successfully with antibiotics, which usually clear the rash within one to two weeks, although flu like symptoms may take longer to clear,” he said. “This early treatment prevents the development of the later manifestations of the disease, although these too will usually respond to treatment. However avoiding tick bites and carefully removing any ticks within 24 hours of possible attachment prevents transmission altogether and is therefore the best response.”
There are several measures that can be taken to control tick bites and these are outlined on the gov.je site. There will also be reminders on social media, leaflets and posters in areas of potential risk.
States Vet Theo Knight-Jones said “These measures should not affect Islanders’ or visitors’ enjoyment of the countryside or walking. It is simply a matter of being tick aware, which means minimising the chances of bites and the problems they may cause.”
Ticks and Lyme disease