Rugby star Matt Dawson has revealed how he required heart surgery after contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite.
The former England international became ill shortly after he was bitten in a London park in 2016.
His condition was so severe that he was forced to undergo several heart procedures and is still on medication as he continues his recovery.
The 44-year-old told Good Morning Britain he endured a "horrendous" six months following his diagnosis - a situation compounded by his young son's battle with meningitis.
Dawson is now keen to help raises awareness around Lyme disease, which can leave sufferers severely debilitated, and has teamed up with The Big Tick Project.
- What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease, which is a bacterial infection, can lead to serious conditions such as meningitis or heart failure, and in some cases can prove fatal.
In other scenarios, sufferers can develop chronic fatigue, memory problems or physical paralysis.
The disease is carried in ticks, which are tiny spider-like creatures found in woodland and heath areas.
Ticks feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans, and are found throughout the UK, Europe and North America.
One in three dogs are believed to carry ticks, a study found recently.
Around 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed each year in England and Wales each year, according to the NHS.
There is currently no vaccine available.
- What are the signs of Lyme disease?
Most people start displaying symptoms within 30 days of being bitten.
This often includes a distinctive circular rash, looking like a bull's-eye, around the bitten area. Typically the rash is around 15cm, or 6 inches, wide.
Other people with Lyme disease experience flu-like symptoms in the early stages, as well as muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, stiffness and a high temperature.
- What to do if you think you have Lyme disease?
It is important to visit your GP if you develop any of the symptoms described after being bitten.
Diagnosing Lyme disease can be difficult as many of the symptoms are similar to other conditions.
The disease can often be treated effectively if detected early on, but if treatment is delayed the risk of severe and long-lasting symptoms.increases.
- How can you prevent Lyme disease?
The best way to prevent the condition is to be aware of the risks when visiting areas where ticks.
The risk can be reduced by taking the following precautions:
- Keeping to footpaths and avoiding long grass when out walking
- Wearing appropriate clothing in tick-infested areas (a long-sleeved shirt and trousers tucked into socks)
- Wearing light-coloured fabrics that may help to spot a tick on clothes
- Using insect repellent on exposed skin
- Inspecting skin for ticks, particularly at the end of the day, including head, neck and skin folds (armpits, groin, and waistband)
- Remove any ticks promptly
- Checking children's head and neck areas, including their scalp
- Making sure ticks are not brought home on clothes
- Checking that pets do not bring ticks home home in their fur
Further information can be found by visiting the NHS website.