Woman who waited 20 years for diagnosis urges more awareness of Lyme disease

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Heather Edwards

A woman from Bracknell who was bitten by a tick as a toddler is calling for greater awareness of the devastating impact of Lyme disease.

Briony Hunt says there needs to be a greater understanding of the conditions so people can identify the early warning signs and get treated quickly.

At two years old, Briony became unwell after she was bitten by a tick and was taken to hospital, but the doctors could not find out what was wrong with her

For twenty years Briony lived with a host of crippling symptoms before she was finally diagnosed. She says she suffers from pain all over her body, neurological difficulties and fatigue, along with poor mental health as a result of the disease.

She said: "I kept pushing to get answers and I was told that maybe I wouldn't get answers; but I knew something was wrong with me."

Speaking about her diagnosis, she said: "I felt frightened. But then I felt a great sense of relief because finally I knew what had been eating away at me for so long. I felt like I knew I could tackle this now."

Briony's great passion is horse riding and she is determined to get better so she can once again ride. She is raising funds to go to Poland for treatment for her Lyme disease.

For twenty years Briony Hunt lived with a host of crippling symptoms until she was diagnosed.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks. However not all ticks in England carry the bacteria. A circular or oval shape rash around a tick bite can be an early symptom of Lyme disease in some people.

Experts say ticks are more prevalent in late spring and summer.

Professor Amanda Callaghan, an entomologist from the University of Reading said: "This is a problem for humans and dogs. If you're not careful, as you walk through and brush past vegetation, you'll find you could have ticks on your body.

"So it is really important that if you've been somewhere like that [woodland, for example], particularly in spring or late summer, that you do check yourself for ticks."

The NHS recommends you remove a tick in the following way:

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick-removal tool. You can buy these from some pharmacies, vets and pet shops.

  • Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible.

  • Slowly pull upwards, taking care not to squeeze or crush the tick. Dispose of it when you have removed it.

  • Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water.