Bug in the grass can cause lyme disease and years of distress

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Vanina Mannu was cleaning up her small back garden and realised that she had been bitten by something because she had a red, itchy patch on her wrist. She ignored this episode and it resulted in a two-year struggle during which she suffered severe ill health.

Doctors insisted that the disease she contracted scarcely existed in the UK.

The rash on her arm worsened to the point where she had no choice but to consult her doctor. Her doctor was unable to recognise the rash, but due to her feelings of lethargy, she was tested for lupus and referred to a dermatologist.

The tests were negative and the rash started fading, so she carried on with her life.

During the following year, Vanina suffered deterioration of her health. She suffered several flu-like symptoms, with joint pain, tiredness and high fevers, to the point where she was unable to get out of bed. She further suffered from severe eye and gum infections.

She was eventually admitted to hospital during May 2012, with suspected meningitis. She suffered with body pains and a severe headache. She was vomiting, had a temperature of around 39.7c and was sweating profusely. She had lost her balance and was unable to walk unaided.

She spent around two weeks in hospital undergoing several tests. However, the doctors were unable to determine her problem. She was given medication in an attempt to control the fever and nausea.

One of her friends decided to do some research on the internet. He discovered details about a disease which was transmitted by tick bites infection with bacteria called Lyme borreliosis. One of the symptoms was the rash that Vanina had suffered a year previously. She informed her doctors about this, but they laughed and said that Lyme disease does not exist in England.

Vanina was eventually discharged from hospital as doctors could not find a cause for her symptoms.

What these doctors were unaware of was that the disease does exist in the UK. Cases of Lyme disease have risen by almost 50% between 2005 and 2011. Public Health England estimates that there are about 3000 new infections on an annual basis.

The Chair of the Lyme Disease Action Charity, Stella Huyshe-Shires, has stated that the figure may actually be much higher. She says that extreme cases may affect the joints, heart and nervous systems, but it is often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

There is one Lyme disease clinic at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital, but it is due to close during the summer due to a lack of funding.

The main areas where infected ticks can be found are Exmoor, the New Forest, the Scottish Highlands, Exmoor, but urbanisation of the rural areas have allowed it to spread to inner city areas.

The incidence of Lyme disease is expected to increase with the forecasts of hotter summers and damper winters. These are perfect conditions for the ticks to thrive.
Vanina’s GP finally relented and she was tested for the disease. The results were negative.

Image Credit: Jerry Kirkhart

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