Warning over Lyme disease prevalence in southwest
Call on National Parks and Wildlife Service to consider signage for nature reserves and parks
There have been calls for the erection of signs warning walkers and campers about the risks of contracting Lyme disease from ticks in the outdoors.
Almost half of the cases of Lyme disease reported in 2016 were in the southwest, according to figures from the HSE.
The disease has a high profile in Co Kerry after former county footballer and father-of-one Anthony Morris, was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease.
The infection was made notifiable in Ireland in January 2012 (under infectious disease regulations).
Eight of the 19 cases reported nationally to mid-December 2016 occurred in Kerry and Cork, figures released by the HSE show.
The counties had eight cases of Lyme diseases notified in 2014 out of a total of 18 cases notified nationally.
In 2015 there were three cases of Lyme disease notified in HSE South Cork and Kerry.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said it may consider signage on the issue for its nature reserves and parks following a call by Kerry County Council.
The presence of ticks - the main vector for the transmission of Lyme disease and similar infections - was an issue throughout the countryside and was not confined to national parks, nature reserves or designated lands, it said.
The NPWS websites and notice/information boards provide useful data and advice (as distinct from warnings) for members of the public intending to visit national parks and nature reserves.
“The issue of signage has been raised locally, and it will be kept under review by the NPWS,” it said.
Calls for awareness
Tralee councillor Norma Foley has led calls for heightened public awareness for those using the outdoors in Kerry.
“We need to encourage people involved in outdoor pursuits to be vigilant. We should show leadership in this county,” the teacher and Fianna Fáil councillor said.
There is often confusion between tick bites and midge bites, according to pharmacists.
This summer several people who were bitten by midges presented themselves at pharmacies worried in case these were tick bites and they had potentially contracted Lyme disease, according to Killarney pharmacist Joan Williams.
Lyme disease, spread by infected ticks on deer, dogs and birds in a small number of cases, can cause debilitating heart and nervous system illnesses.
The ticks have to be attached up to 48 hours before they can transmit the bacteria.
A rash or an expanding area of redness is the most common sign of infection, about a week after the bite.
Advice leaflets for walkers have been issued by the HSE’s Public Health Surveillance Centre.
Advice includes asking people to walk in the middle of paths, keeping trousers tucked in, not to sit on logs and to check for ticks.
Anthony Morris, who contracted the disease eight years ago, is receiving treatment in the US and a number of fundraisers have been held for him.