The Scottish Highlands has been declared a high risk region for Lyme disease by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by ticks. If left untreated it can go on to cause meningitis, heart failure, joint pain, neurological problems, or facial paralysis. The disease can be hard to diagnose as people may not realise they have been bitten by a tick, symptoms often don’t occur until several weeks after infection, and early symptoms such as fever or headache are unspecific.
Ticks carrying the bacteria which causes Lyme disease are found all over the UK and in some regions of Europe and North America. Woodland, moorland, and around livestock are favourite environments, but they are found in gardens and parks too. It is thought that between 2000 and 3000 new cases of the disease occur in England and Wales every year, although reporting of diagnoses is inconsistent and Nice has called for a large scale study to establish reliable prevalence information for the UK.