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Man contracts Lyme disease after being bitten by ticks 17 times

Nigel Smith developed Lyme disease from tick bites. Photo: Bristol Live

A man in his 50s has contracted Lyme disease after being bitten 17 times whilst out on an early morning fishing trip in Weston-super-Mare.

Nigel Smith, 55, was wearing shorts on the first day of his trip to Summer Lane Ponds when he was attacked by the parasites.

He then developed red spots on his legs and a rash appeared all over his left leg.

It wasn't until the next day when Nigel was back at work that he began showing severe flu-like symptoms, a sign of Lyme disease.

He is now on a four-week course of strong antibiotics to fight his reaction.

Nigel is now on a four-week course of strong antibiotics to fight his reaction. Credit: Bristol Live

I kept getting little bites on my legs, but I thought it was mosquitoes and just flicked them off.

The bites then developed into red dots on his legs, which then progressed into a rash on his left leg.

Then, at work the next day he experienced flu-like symptoms including a temperature, pain and dizziness.

My friend at work said it looked like I had an allergic reaction to something.

– Nigel Smith
Nigel is currently off work, but is expected to make a full recovery. Credit: Bristol Live

When he got back home, Nigel started feeling worse and went to A&E at Weston General Hospital where a nurse told him quickly he was suffering from Lyme Disease.

The heads of the ticks were buried in my legs. When you remove the body, the head regurgitates everything which was in the tick's body into your bloodstream.

Luckily the nurse I saw was a specialist in Lyme disease and quickly diagnosed me. I felt absolutely awful. I was sitting in hospital in a furry coat, yet was shivering.

The pain in my left leg is really bad, It feels like I have been sitting next to a barbecue and getting them burnt. It is the first time I have ever been bitten by a tick and I have never encountered anything like it before. I am lucky I got treatment quickly.

– Nigel Smith
Nigel is warning others to take extra precautions when walking in long grass. Credit: Bristol Live

Nigel is currently off work, but is expected to make a full recovery. He is warning others to take extra precautions when walking in long grass.

If I go fishing again I will be wearing appropriate clothing. Apparently the area is rife with ticks at the moment.

The ponds are a really popular spot with local people and children. What is worrying is to think if a child suffered the same amount of bites as me, they may not have survived.

I just want people to be aware and take the relevant precautions to stop this from happening to anyone else.

– Nigel Smith
Ticks bites can lead to developing Lyme disease. Credit: ITV News

What is Lyme Disease?

  • Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium named Borrelia spread by ticks.
  • The most common sign of infection is an expanding area of redness on the skin which appears at the site of the tick bite about a week after it occurred.
  • Untreated, Lyme disease can spread to other parts of the body for several months to years after infection, causing arthritis and nervous system problems.
  • Most people recover when treated within a few weeks of antibiotics taken by mouth. In a small percentage of cases, symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches can last for more than six months.
  • Ticks become more prevalent between May and September.
  • The number of cases of Lyme Disease has increased in recent years.
  • Ticks are small, spider like creatures which feed on the blood of animals and humans.
  • Most tick bites occur during spring and summer because this is the time of year when most people take part in outdoor activities.
  • Damp, shady dense vegetation, dead leaves or long grass provide the perfect habitat for the creatures.
  • Ticks don't jump or fly, but climb on to people or animals as they brush past. They then bite into the skin and attach themselves, before they start feeding on the blood of their new host.
  • Ticks prefer warm places on the body, especially the groin area, waist, armpits, behind the knee and along hairlines.

Public Health England has recently issued advice advising people how to avoid getting bitten and what steps to take for those who do.

It is important to carry out a regular tick check after participating in outdoor activities. A tick check is carried out by looking and feeling for ticks that may have attached to the skin.

By performing a tick check, the chance of infection is reduced because feeding ticks are spotted and removed promptly.

– Public Health England spokesperson

With an estimated 2000-3000 new cases in England and Wales each year, Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infections in the UK.

However the true number of cases is likely to be much higher due to under-reporting and unreliable testing methods.

People who spend time outdoors in areas where ticks are found are most at risk of developing Lyme disease.