St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon, and if you are weary of tick-borne diseases, lyme green may be on your mind. Government statistics note that there are at least 50 to 100 incidences of Lyme disease per year on the island. Poor awareness of the existence of the disease and of its symptoms, both on the part of the general public and on the part of the physicians, means that very often the disease is initially overlooked or misdiagnosed and therefore underreported so Ireland likely has a significant higher number cases than those reported by the Ireland’s Health Services Executive. Dr.John Lambert, Professor at the Infectious Diseases Unit at the Mater Hospital, says it’s more likely thousands of people are infected annually by ticks that carry the bacterial disease.
Although, no comprehensive survey on ticks has ever been conducted in Ireland it is well known that tick activity in Ireland tends to peak in spring and early summer, so if you are considering taking a trip down to the Emerald Isle between the months of March to July, take extra measures. In Ireland, the vast majority of ticks are ‘hard ticks’, meaning their dorsal surface is covered by a plate-like shield known as the scutum. The most common tick species in the region is the castor bean tick or deer tick, scientifically known as Ixodes ricinus which closely resembles the Ixodes scapularis (deer tick, black -legged) which is the key vector of Lyme disease in eastern North America. Like its North American cousin, the castor bean tick is exophilic – it lives freely in the environment and actively seeks host through a process known as questing in which the tick positions itself on the tip of grasses and shrubs, awaiting passing animals with their legs outstretched. National Center for Biotechnology Information notes that “there is no doubt that in the UK and Ireland, the Ixodes ricinus is the principle vector of tick-borne disease”. The NCBI also notes that there is a scarcity of information on ticks in Ireland. In contrast, most parts of Europe which have levied considerable resources dedicated to vector-borne disease surveillance and research.
If you are planning to visit Ireland you may wish to review the government website https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/az/l/lyme-disease/ but preferably visit http://www.ticktalkireland.org/ which is a site that run by a group of volunteers dedicated to promoting awareness , prevention and treatment of Lyme disease in Ireland.