Anglican bishop urges NHS to “wake up” about Lyme disease
By Bishop Christopher Herbert PhD
Visiting Professor, University of Surrey, UK
The National Health Service recently declared it is entering a new era. It involves technology in which patients can stay at home and be monitored remotely.
It is interesting news, but I enter a heartfelt plea. I want the NHS also to deal better with already existing conditions. Conditions seriously affecting the well-being of thousands. I want an NHS which is willing to listen and to follow evidence.
I give an example. In the UK in April 2022, the government published guidance about Lyme disease. It stated: “The most common symptom is a spreading, bull’s-eye rash at the site of the tick bite which typically develops three to 30 days after being bitten.”
But this is misleading. Firstly, not all people bitten by a tick get the bull’s-eye rash; secondly, it is possible to get Lyme disease from a tick bite and not know it has happened, until some nasty symptoms show themselves.
The government states Lyme disease is an “uncommon infection.” But, oh! Listen to this. The government only counts the number of people who have had a test carried out by a recognised testing centre, tests which are notoriously uncertain.
Furthermore, GPs are not required to notify the authorities if they believe a patient has had a tick-bite, so the government simply cannot know the size of the problem.
The numbers don’t add up
In the US, at least 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease are notified each year; in Germany between 50,000 and 60,000 people per annum get Lyme disease. In the UK, the government says there were 849 cases. Doesn’t add up, does it?
Public Health England estimates around 3,000 cases per annum… but that, of course, is just a guess.
In the US, a study revealed more than 50 per cent of Lyme patients were still ill six to 12 months after a short-term course of antibiotics.
Ticks are nasty little creatures and can carry not one but several pathogens, and the result of a tick bite can involve heart problems, joint inflammation, long-term fatigue and “brain fog.”
In children, it can mean seriously disrupted education, and for adults, loss of work.
As we live in an area that is infested with ticks, the potential problem is huge.
What can be done? Preventive measures when going for walks can help: long trousers tucked into socks, long-sleeved shirts, light-coloured clothing so ticks can be spotted, plus tick repellent.
You can find out more from the courageous charity, Lyme Disease UK.
Lyme disease is a really serious issue. When will the government wake up and recognise it?
Bishop Christopher Herbert has a family member who has battled Lyme disease for many years. This article was previously published in a number of newspapers in the UK, including The Times. Learn more about Bishop Herbert’s work at his website.