Friday, 8 October 2010

Questing, questing, questing...........

When Ixodes ticks are ready to feed, they go out 'questing' for a bite from a passing animal or unclad human leg. But, if they are carrying Borrelia burgdorferi, that human could contract Lyme Disease - an illness that, left untreated, can be more serious than just an itchy bite mark. So whose fault is that? You can't really blame the tick - it's what ticks do. And who infected them in the first place? At Relu's "Assessing and Communicating Animal Disease Risks for Countryside Users" practitioner panel yesterday, one land manager was anxious because "My deer always get the blame". I can understand his sense of injustice, as deer don't actually carry Lyme Disease - although high concentrations of deer do seem to be associated with lots of ticks, simply because they provide regular meals for them. But the ticks are picking up Borrelia burgdorferi from small mammals and birds. So are they the baddies? Of course, if people using the countryside are well-informed it may not matter. They can cover up, avoid long grass, particularly at relevant times of year, and inspect themselves and pets for any ticks when they get home. If the little pests are removed quickly, using tweezers, they will cause no problem. But whose responsibility is it to tell us about the risks? That's not so easy to answer.

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