With tick season in full swing, health officials are warning about Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is more common in the south west than anywhere else in the country, and Devon in particular.

The bacterial disease can be given to humans by ticks.

There are approximately 1,500 cases of Lyme disease, commonly spread by ticks, in England and Wales each year.

April to June is traditionally prime time tick season, and the level of cases of Lyme disease is routinely higher in Devon than England’s average levels.

The confirmed case levels of Lyme disease in Devon in 2021 were 5.6 cases per 100,000 of our population, compared to just an average 1.5 cases per 100,000 for England.

The south west average last year was 3.5 cases per 100,000.

Ticks are small spider-like creatures, which feed on blood of host animals, including humans. They can vary in size, from the size of a small freckle to a baked bean.

Some can carry bacteria that pass diseases such as Lyme disease.

Early symptoms include a ‘bullseye’ rash around the site of the bite, and flu-like reactions such as fatigue, fever, chills or muscle aches.

Director of Public Health Devon, Steve Brown said: “Prevention and being prepared to respond quickly is the best form of protection against these diseases, as removing a tick promptly reduces the risk of infection.

“Typically, ticks are found in dense vegetation and woodland areas, as it offers them protection.

“Walking on defined paths, covering up as much as possible, wearing light coloured clothing so that they’re easier to spot and wearing an insect repellent that can deter ticks from climbing onto skin, are all sensible precautions.

“And it’s important to carry out regular tick checks after any outdoors activity, as spotting them early allows you to act promptly.”

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The experts’ advice on removing ticks is to use fine-headed tweezers, or a tick removal tool, to hold onto the tick as close to the skin as possible. Then, slowly pull upwards. This will remove the whole tick at once, avoiding infection. After, the site should be cleaned with an antibacterial wipe.

If that wasn’t successful and you’re worried you haven’t removed the entire tick, or you suffer symptoms after a tick bite, you should contact 111, visit your GP or an hospital's minor injuries unit.

Liz, from the Holsworthy area, had been on holiday in Spain: “When I returned, I found I had little energy. I even had to pull over in the car and sleep for fear of falling asleep at the wheel. I thought I was going down with a virus and tried to shake it off with painkillers.

“A few weeks after my return from holiday I noticed a red mark on the back of my leg. It didn’t itch but it was quite large and like a ring with a red mark in the centre it looked like a bullseye.

“The GP confirmed Lyme disease from an infected tick and prescribed a month’s course of antibiotics.”

After the antibiotics, Liz began to regain her strength and hasn’t suffered from any long term symptoms.