Ness was bitten by a tick and she will never forget the consequences. Ness became seriously ill with Lyme Disease.
Ticks are found all over Ireland, living mostly in woodland and meadows, but they can also be seen on dogs that are only exercised in urban areas. Young ticks wait in vegetation underfoot, grabbing onto any passing mammal, including farm animals, horses, dogs, cats, and humans. They can be as tiny as pinheads when they crawl onto you, although they grow to be as big as coffee beans as they fill up with blood.
In Ireland, ticks have traditionally been more of a physical irritation than a disease threat to pets and people, but this has changed. There’s now increasing awareness that ticks can carry a bacteria that causes a nasty illness called Lyme Disease. Humans, dogs and horses can be affected.
Ness first became ill in July 2008. The problem started with severe sciatica, caused by a swollen hip. Within a few days, all of her large joints were swollen, including her knees, elbows and shoulders. As the disease progressed, she was confined to bed, unable to move because of the discomfort, despite continual pain relief.
Doctors and specialists initially believed that she had a type of viral arthritis, but when a blood test for Lyme Disease was carried out, it came back as positive. She was started on treatment – a specific antibiotic – but despite this, the bacteria began to invade her nervous system. Her eyes were painful, her vision deteriorated, and she had buzzing in her ears with extreme fatigue. She continued the antibiotics, and she also attended a Kenesiologist, to improve her mobility. She’s gradually improved, and has now almost fully recovered.
Puddie, her cat, was Ness’s constant companion throughout her illness, curled up beside her day and night, watching films with her, comforting her and distracting her from worrying about her situation.
Ness is keen to spread the word about the risk of Lyme Disease. Not every tick is infected with Lyme Disease, and not every tick bite will transmit the disease, but the longer a tick is allowed to remain on an animal or a human, the more likely it is that the illness will be passed on.
It’s worth taking steps to avoid ticks, using anti-tick preventive treatment on pets. It’s important to remove ticks as soon as possible if they do attach themselves to you or your pet. Custom-designed tick pullers are the safest way to remove ticks: the O’Tom Tick Twister is one of the best, available from vets, as well as online. Traditional tick removing methods – such as lighted cigarettes, smothering with oil, or even just pulling them out with your fingers – can cause the ticks to regurgitate blood into you before they detach, increasing the risk of infection.
Once removed, ticks need to be disposed of safely. Throw them in an open fire, flush them down the toilet, or place them in a sealed plastic bag before crushing them. Without opening the bag, dispose of it in an outside dustbin. Wash your hands with soap and water once you’re finished, to be double-sure that you’re not carrying any bacteria after handling the tick. You don’t need to drive a wooden stake through a tick’s heart, but then again, perhaps that’s a good idea: there’s no point in taking any chances.
- Vampires may be fictional, but ticks are real-life blood suckers
- Lyme Disease is transmitted via the bite of a tick
- Visit www.bada-uk.org to find out more