NHS Western Isles has been applauded by the Scottish Parliament in their local efforts to reduce Lyme disease and tick awareness.
During the motion, "Lyme Disease, The Need To Do More, the Members Business Debate (4825), Donald Cameron MSP stated the debate provided “an important opportunity to discuss an issue that connects rural affairs and public health... in particular, the Uists, which Lyme disease affects more than any other part of Scotland.”
According to a report by NHS Western Isles, ticks are particularly common in the grasslands of the Uists and in areas that are frequented by deer. The Royal Forestry Society notes that there are around 1,200 confirmed reports of Lyme disease each year and around 100,000 worldwide.
However, between 2010 and 2013, there were 33 confirmed cases across the Western Isles which, for a population of fewer than 30,000 people, makes the incidence rate significantly higher than the UK average.
Mr. Cameron MSP added, “I welcome the seriousness with which the issue is being taken by NHS Western Isles and I welcome the actions that it is pursuing to raise public awareness.
“It is vital that we continue to support such efforts and learn from them as we try to lower the incidence of Lyme disease in Scotland. One issue that has been mentioned concerns improving the testing, so that we can get early diagnosis.
“I congratulate NHS Western Isles on the good lead that it has taken on this matter, and I welcome its efforts and the efforts of all the charities that are represented here tonight to improve public awareness.”
During March this year, NHS Western Isles organised two separate events in South Uist where discussions centred on the burden of ticks and Lyme disease affecting the population of the Western Isles. Information was provided on the common infections transmitted by ticks, including Lyme disease affecting humans, alongside other illnesses commonly affecting local livestock and humans on occasion.
Tick awareness resources were also distributed throughout the Western Isles to a wide range of local businesses, shops, NHS sites, and Caledonian Macbrayne for use on their ferries and in terminals. Information packs were also issued to all schools and nurseries to raise awareness with staff and young people of how they can deal with potential tick bites early and safely. NHS Western Isles is currently looking to collaborate with the research arm of Public Health England to further the understanding of Lyme disease.
Dr. Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said, “NHS Western Isles is delighted that the efforts we have put into place in our fight against Lyme Disease have been recognised at national level, and we will continue to develop and implement our awareness-raising campaign.
“In conjunction with Health Protection Scotland, NHS Western Isles is organising a national symposium on Benbecula during August 2017. The symposium aims to raise awareness nationally of the public health priority in relation to ticks and Lyme disease and explore possible interventions. It will allow delegates to consider how the experience in the Western Isles can be applied to the wider Scottish context.”