Lyme Disease warning from Sunderland woman left 'isolated' after catching it from her dog

Kay Gibb caught Lyme Disease from her dog after he passed a number of ticks onto her. Credit: NCJ Media

A woman who caught Lyme Disease from her dog has spoken out about how isolating the condition can be.

Kay Gibb became ill in the summer of 2021, when her dog Buddy passed ticks - the blood-sucking insects which spread Lyme Disease - onto her at her home in Sunderland.

The bacterial disease, which can cause an oval "bullseye" rash and flu-like symptoms, is thought to affect about 2,000 to 3,000 people in the UK each year.

Ms Gibb, from Pennywell, said she now spends "a lot of time in bed" and only goes out "once every couple of months" after catching it.

The 53-year-old became infected after Buddy, who was not up to date with his flea and tick treatment, came into contact with a hedgehog nest without her knowing about it and brought ticks into her home.

After discovering eight ticks on her body, she pulled them out with tweezers and a few days later developed the bullseye rashes on her legs, chest and feet.

She went to see her GP and got a course of antibiotics. However, she was one of the 5-10% of people infected who now has what the NHS calls post-treatment Lyme syndrome.

Though many people recover fully and have no long-term symptoms when Lyme Disease is correctly diagnosed and treated with antibiotics, some do not recover and continue to have symptoms.

The NHS says it is unclear why this happens, and as such there is no agreed treatment for the chronic condition.

Ms Gibb said: "I didn't realise how bad it would be. I'd heard of Lyme Disease but I didn't think it was something you'd get in this country.

"I thought you'd only get it abroad. Before I Googled how to remove a tick and found out about Lyme Disease, I hadn't heard much about it."

She was already registered as disabled before she contracted Lyme Disease, due to having ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and Ménière's disease, an ear condition that can cause sudden attacks of vertigo. The severity of her conditions means she had to take early retirement.

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Despite Buddy bringing the ticks into Ms Gibbs's home, she said that he is a huge comfort to her. She said: "I don't blame him, it's not his fault.

"He's the reason I'm still here because if I'm down, if I'm really poorly, he's giving me cuddles, he's a very good support. If I'm really good, everybody knows because the dog won't leave me - he's really good, I love him."

She added: "It was partly my own fault because he was overdue his flea and tick treatment, I'm very vigilant now and because of his treatment if he gets anything on him, it would just fall straight off."

Buddy, a boxer/Staffordshire bull terrier cross, brought ticks into the house after lying on a hedgehog nest. Credit: NCJ Media

Charity Lyme Disease UK has supported Ms Gibb during her ordeal and aims to raise awareness of the condition.

They say that misdiagnosis and late diagnosis can be common with the condition, especially if the person does not develop a rash or is not aware that they have been bitten.Not all ticks are infected with Lyme Disease, but those which most commonly are are the nymph and female adult. Ticks can be as small as poppy seeds when they are in the nymph stage of development.

A spokesperson for Lyme Disease UK said: "Lyme disease can be a very debilitating illness and it’s important it is diagnosed and treated started as quickly as possible. Generally awareness amongst the general public and frontline health professionals is low in the UK but it is improving.

"Lyme Disease is a preventable illness with a small amount of knowledge and it’s essential to prevent it if you can and to know what to look out for if you have been bitten."

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