By Jonathan Owen and Kunal Dutta
Tuesday, 12 April 2011:
Ray Mears, the British survival guru, has revealed how a tick bite led to a 14-year battle with Lyme disease that nearly ended his career.
Mears, who presents television shows including Survival and Wild Britain, was speaking at the start of Tick Awareness Week. He described how a tick bite led to excruciating back pain and declining health that almost forced him to give up work. "The pain I had in my back was so bad that if I sneezed I almost blacked out with the pain," he said. "I was getting to the point where I was going to have to think about doing something different for work... I don't know when I contracted whatever it was, but I think it was Lyme disease. I had it for 14 or so years."
Lyme disease is a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks. According to the Health Protection Agency, up to 3,000 people contract the illness, also known as borreliosis, each year. Campaigners say the problem is worsening, as warmer winters and wetter summers allow ticks to spread further afield and many doctors remain ignorant of the disease.
Sarah Randolf, professor of parasite ecology at Oxford University, said cases of Lyme disease were compounded by "a poor and haphazard assessment" of its recent prevalence, as well as the increase of deer population which can transport bacteria-carrying ticks.
Mears, who is the patron of the charity for tick-borne diseases Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK (Bada-UK), is leading calls for more awareness of the disease, which can cause severe arthritis, neurological damage, heart problems and fibromyalgia (muscle and connective tissue pain). "I feel that there is not enough awareness of Lyme disease in this country, given the fact that in rare cases it may become chronic," he said.
"I've been teaching outdoor skills for 28 years, the last five years we're hearing more and more cases of people with problems, particularly outdoor professionals who are in the woods a lot. It's becoming a real worry now." Read more>>
See also: Chronic Lyme Disease patients: 100% are XMRV positive