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Why Lyme disease is on the rise – and how to protect yourself

0 2 years ago

Miranda Holder grew up in rural Gloucestershire and spent much of her time playing outside when a bite from a black-legged tick changed the course of her life. “I don’t recall being bitten but there wasn’t any awareness about ticks in those days,” says Holder, 46, a fashion stylist from Andover in Hampshire.

“My symptoms were many and varied,” she explains. “I was bone-tired, to the point where I sometimes couldn’t speak, my digestion was terrible and I was in serious pain. I found it hard to sleep, had very achy, overly mobile joints and developed a string of alarming skin conditions such as alopecia, bizarre rashes and facial swelling. On some days, I hardly recognised myself.”

She was eventually diagnosed with chronic late-stage Lyme disease, joining a growing number of victims, including the singer Justin Bieber and model Bella Hadid, who are suffering after being bitten by a tick carrying the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.

More than 14 per cent of people worldwide have contracted tick-borne Lyme disease, according to research by scientists at Kunming Medical University in China. There were 1,156 laboratory-confirmed cases in the UK last year, though estimates suggest there could be 2,000 more – a figure that is rising thanks to warming global temperatures and our growing love of the great outdoors.

“Ticks like to come out when the weather’s humid and warm and as the summers are getting hotter and winters are getting slightly warmer, they’re active for longer and putting more people at risk,” says Stella Huyshe-Shires, chairman of the charity Lyme Disease Action. “Ticks live in shady and moist areas, usually around ground level, and generally cling to tall grass and low shrubs in woods, parks and gardens, ready to jump onto their prey. Summer camping trips, festivals or simply walking the dog can leave you exposed.”

Areas known to have a particularly high population of ticks include Exmoor, the New Forest and other rural areas of Hampshire…

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