Tick Time Bomb

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...understanding Lyme disease

Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks, has been making headlines as high-profile celebrities and long-time sufferers have come forward to raise awareness and discuss their struggle with the condition.

With some experts predicting that cases of Lyme disease are set to rise in the UK, the condition’s recent coverage could raise awareness of causes, symptoms, and the daily effects of the disease.

Explaining the risks of Lyme disease, Phillip Gower – Partner in Industrial Disease for Simpson Millar – outlines how some workers in certain industries could be at an increased risk of developing the condition.

High-Profile Cases Of Lyme Disease

The high-profile revelations relating to Lyme disease began early in April, when one of rock music’s most famous daughters, Kelly Osbourne, revealed her struggle with stage III neurological Lyme disease.

She developed the disease in a reindeer sanctuary in 2004 and claims that she was initially misdiagnosed, which is a common complaint amongst Lyme disease sufferers.

Osbourne claims that her misdiagnosis caused her to feel like a “vegetable” on too many prescription pills that were not right for the symptoms she was suffering.

Following this revelation, former soap star and current Loose Women personality Martine McCutcheon shared her own difficulties with the disease as she discussed recent weight loss on social media platform Instagram.

In her post the singer and TV personality revealed that she found it difficult to lose weight due to the affect Lyme disease has on her nervous system – one of the main symptoms of the condition is pain to the nervous system, which can cause paralysis of facial muscles, memory problems, and difficulty concentrating.

Finally, a 28-year-old from Australia made international headlines after over 100 doctors missed her Lyme disease for over 16 years.

It is claimed that Janine Mieni has been suffering from ill health since the age of 12, when she was bitten by a tick on a primary school camping trip.

For 16 years she has been misdiagnosed and her Lyme disease has been missed, with some medical professionals trying to convince her that her symptoms were psychological.

Her ordeal highlights the difficulty associated with diagnosing and treating Lyme disease; the condition is often described as a ‘tick time bomb’ because many of the main symptoms take a long time to present.

Lyme Disease In The Workplace

While this coverage is placing Lyme disease back in the national agenda, there has been a pertinent risk of Lyme disease to workers in particular industries for years.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been publishing guidance since the early 2000s and outline that those working outdoors, in wooded areas, are at particular risk of being exposed to ticks who could be carrying Lyme disease.

Describing Lyme disease as an occupational disease, the HSE warns of jobs whose activities include:

“Work involving exposure to ticks (including in particular, work by forestry workers, rangers, dairy farmers, game keepers and other persons engaged in countryside management).”

While these groups are not the only professions at risk of exposure to Lyme disease, those working outdoors are a lot more likely to come in to contact with the pests that carry the condition than those who are based inside for most of their working day.

Ensuring Workers Are Protected

With these recent articles raising awareness of Lyme disease, Phillip argues that any conversation about the occupational disease should include an employer’s responsibility to protect employees from ill health, as he said:

“It’s commendable that Lyme disease has had such wide coverage in the press recently, especially as there is a relative lack of understanding relating to the symptoms of this condition, which often leads to misdiagnosis and misunderstanding amongst sufferers.”

“I hope that these high-profile stories lead to a better understanding amongst sufferers and it could transpire that someone who was previously suffering from unknown ill health will connect the dots and realise that they have the same condition as those celebrities that have spoken out.”

“As with any public discussion about a condition typically defined as an occupational hazard, it is important that some of the awareness goes towards the workers most at risk, which in this instance is those working outdoors.”

“Of course all employees, whether they work indoors or outside, should be protected from ill health and disease by their employer, who has a duty of care to all staff.”

“If any of the recent disclosures of Lyme disease have made you realise that you could be suffering from the condition, and you believe your exposure could have been through your work, you could be eligible for compensation through an industrial disease claim as ultimately your employer has failed in their most basic duty of care.”

Written by Phillip Gower.

For more information on industrial disease and the services offered by Simpson Millar, please call:

0808 129 3304

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