East Sussex is one of the worst areas in Europe for disease-carrying ticks, a new study has revealed.
The report has been compiled by experts from across Europe, including scientists from the University of East London who combed through all recorded incidents of ticks found carrying the bacteria which causes Lyme disease, spanning seven years between 2010 and 2017.
After plotting the data on a map, the south of England appears as one of just a handful of areas in Europe where the risks are severe. The tick which causes the trouble is called ‘Ixodes ricinus’.
Writing in the International Journal of Health Geographics, the study’s authors said: “The distribution of I. ricinus continues to expand northwards in latitude and upwards in altitude in Europe.
“Climate trends and the density of key hosts for the adults of the tick, have been pointed as the main factors behind the spread of I. ricinus.”
The danger zone — covering London, Kent, East Sussex and parts of Essex — is on a par with Northern Italy, Romania, Switzerland and Norway when it comes to ‘very high’ populations of the blood-sucking critters.
The maps showing risk areas - including the central Netherlands, Copenhagen in Denmark and the coastal area near Gdansk, northern Poland - could also influence your summer holiday plans.
Meanwhile the report also warns climate change is set to increase the number of ticks further.
The data also said areas with a low and gradual rise in spring temperatures, as well as a big rise in spring vegetation, were locations where the blood-suckers thrive.
The authors add: “The highest prevalence occurs in areas of 280°–290° Kelvin (6.85ºC - 16.85ºC) of mean annual temperature - around central Europe and southern parts of Nordic countries - and a slow spring rise of temperature, together with high mean values and a moderate spring rise of vegetation vigor.”
Meanwhile other maps looked at how predicted increases in temperature caused by climate change could see ticks carrying a certain strain of the bacteria which causes Lyme disease becoming widespread across the UK - and much of the rest of Europe.
The bacteria which the ticks carry, and which in turn causes Lyme disease, is called ‘Borrelia burgdorferi s.l’.
Mario, a technician with UK firm Fantastic Services, says: “Ticks have been known to infest homes, both here and abroad, and you need to take precautions to stop that happening.
“Whether you’re travelling abroad this summer, or you’re simply out and about in one of the UK hotspots identified by this study, you should use a chemical repellent containing DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) to keep the creatures at bay.
“You should also wear light-colored protective clothing that covers the skin, as well as tucking your trousers into your socks.
“What’s also vital is that you check your children and pets for any sign of a bite.
“And don’t assume that ticks only live in the forests or wild outdoor areas - they could just as easily be lurking in long grass in your garden, just waiting for you to walk past so they can hitch a ride...”
Mario says that if you do find ticks in your home, it’s important to catch one of them and to place it in a sealed bag or container.
He says: “Keep the tick for 30 days, just in case you or any members of your family start to experience any of the symptoms of Lyme disease.
“This tick specimen can then be analysed by doctors to either confirm or deny the presence of the bacteria.
“You might also want to return the tick to Public Health England, which has a tick recording and surveillance programme.
“You should also get into the habit of inspecting pets, children and yourself whenever you venture into green spaces - and that includes even small parks in city centres.
“As this study proves, you never know where they might lurk.”
According to the NHS, the most obvious sign you might have Lyme disease is a circular red ‘bullseye’ skin rash around a tick bite.
The NHS website also says: “Some people also have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery, headaches, muscle and joint pain,
tiredness and loss of energy.”