World Health Day and Lyme disease – the UK’s most common vector-borne human infection

7 April is World Health Day and this year’s theme is vector-borne diseases with the campaign’s motto ‘Small Bite: Big Threat’. To many, this will conjure up thoughts of Malaria, Dengue or West Nile Virus but, in the UK, Lyme disease should come to mind – the UK’s most common vector-borne human infection.

Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick, Lyme disease is found across the UK, both in rural and urban areas.

Lyme disease numbers have been increasing year on year, but nobody knows exactly why. Public Health England (PHE) believes the number of confirmed cases to be around 3,000 per year. Charity Lyme Disease Action believes the true numbers are much higher – probably over 15,000 cases per year – as many go undiagnosed.

As there is no definitive test that can rule out Lyme disease, Lyme Disease Action believes that clinical judgement is vital when assessing patients and interpreting the results of any tests. It is important to recognise typical symptoms and signs. Last summer, PHE published a factsheet for GPs, which contains some very useful information which has helped both patients and GPs.

To tie in with Word Health Day and raise the profile of Lyme disease, the charity Lyme Disease Action is asking people to print a copy of the factsheet and take it into their GP practice during March or April, to help dispel some of the myths surrounding Lyme disease which are evident within the Primary Care sector.

Important messages to be drawn from the PHE factsheet for GPs and practice nurses:

  •  Not everyone recalls seeing a tick (or noticing a bite)
  • Disease transmission from an infected tick can be within a day
  • Lyme disease occurs across the UK
  • The classic Bull’s Eye / Erythema Migrans rash may be absent
  • The rash should be treated with antibiotics without waiting for tests
  • Early tests may be negative

Much more information is available on the Lyme Disease Action website ( Lyme Disease Action is a charity striving for greater awareness of Lyme disease and associated tick-borne diseases.

Ends – 4 March 2014


Note to Editors:

A Lyme disease poster, showing how to remove a tick correctly, and leaflets on Lyme disease, are available for publication if required or, free of charge, for readers to take to their own local GP or veterinary practice. A fact sheet is also available on request. Tick removers can be ordered via the Lyme Disease Action website( and cost from £4.99 including p&p.


Press: Issued by Lyme Disease Action’s press office (

For more information, case studies or to speak to Stella Huyshe-Shires, the Chair of Lyme Disease Action, please contact Sue Ockwell or Helena Hamlyn via email –

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