Tue, 05 May 2020
DURING lockdown people are being encouraged to take daily exercise by getting out into their gardens or going on long walks, but it is also tick season and, as May is Lyme disease awareness month, here is a timely reminder to take precautions against being bitten.
Lyme sufferer Angela Knight is urging the public to "please take care not to pick up any unwanted hitchhikers".
Shalbourne resident Ms Knight knows firsthand the debilitating effects of Lyme having contracted the disease herself more than 20 years ago. She was not treated early and her symptoms have persisted for years.
She now campaigns to raise awareness of the disease so that more people receive the correct diagnosis and treatment, and as part of her continuing efforts she has started The Lyme Dialogues Podcast.
In her first podcast she interviews Armin Schwarzbach, of ArminLabs, Augsburg, Germany, whose lab tests for Lyme and Covid-19. In the interview Dr Schwarzbach discusses the coronavirus, Covid-19 and whether Lyme disease sufferers are more susceptible to the virus.
Dr Schwarzbach agrees that having Lyme weakens your immune system, saying 'chronic infected paitents are more immune suppressed than others'.
As well as a suppressed immune system, Dr Schwarzbach says Lyme sufferers usually have an additional viral infection without even knowing it. He offers advice on how Lyme disease patients can best protect themselves from coronavirus - not surprisingly, although he suggest various remedies, ultimately he says isolation is key. But he is also optimistic that this pandemic has raised the profile of Lyme and other viral infections and that going forward it will change the way the medical profession views these illnesses.
Talking about when she was bitten by a tick, Ms Knight says: "Doctors say you can only get this abroad - that it comes from overseas. But I hadn't been abroad. I'd been picnicking in Wiltshire."
She says: "Ticks are so tiny they are the size of a poppy seed. Even in hot weather it’s best to cover up arms and legs and to check yourselves and your animals when you get home."
Ms Knight stresses that although not all ticks carry the disease, it is still important to be vigilant: "The tick injects a chemical that numbs the bite area before sucking blood, so you probably won’t notice it at first, until it has been attached to you for a while and grown much bigger. Some ticks can transmit the bacterial infection Lyme disease, as well as viruses and co-infections."
It is important that you don’t touch the tick with your fingers - use a tick remover, available from vets and chemists, to remove the tick from you - or your pet - and tell your GP straight away if you have been bitten.
In Ms Knight's second podcast she talks to local writer Belinda Harley, who got bitten by ticks walking her dog in the woods and subsequently became very ill with Lyme disease.
To listen to the podcasts go to https://lymedialogues.podbean.com