Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures found in woodland and heath areas. They feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. Ticks that carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease are found throughout the UK and in other parts of Europe and North America.
It’s estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year. About 15% of cases occur while people are abroad. Lyme disease can often be treated effectively if it’s detected early on. But if it’s not treated or treatment is delayed, there’s a risk you could develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.
People who spend time in woodland or heath areas in the UK and parts of Europe or North America are most at risk of developing Lyme disease. Most tick bites happen in late spring, early summer and autumn because these are the times of year when most people take part in outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping and fishing. Cases of Lyme disease have been reported throughout the UK, but areas known to have a particularly high population of ticks include:
- the New Forest and other rural areas of Hampshire
- the South Downs
- parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire
- parts of Surrey and West Sussex
- Thetford Forest in Norfolk
- the Lake District
- the North York Moors
- the Scottish Highlands
It’s thought only a small proportion of ticks carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, so being bitten doesn’t mean you’ll definitely be infected. However, it’s important to be aware of the risk and seek medical advice if you start to feel unwell. For more information click here, or download and print a fact sheet here.