3 Entertainment deer in the Irish National Forest - Ticks on wild deer could carry public health risk

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Wild deer may be a tourist attraction in Kerry but they also carry a potential public health risk.

The Killarney area’s large Red and Sika deer populations of up to 1,500 could harbour a disease-carrying tick.

Lyme disease, warned Kerry-based Labour senator Marie Moloney, is very contractible. She raised the issue in the Seanad and said the high rate of the disease often went undetected, especially in Killarney.

Between 50 and 100 cases of the disease are reported in Ireland annually, according to the HSE, while studies show Kerry, Wicklow and Galway as disease hotspots.

Calling for greater awareness of the disease, Ms Moloney said many people did not realise Lyme disease could be contracted here.

It is transmitted by a bite from a tick. The disease is named after the town in Connecticut in the US, where the first cases of the condition were identified.

“Ticks need large mammals for hosts, as they feed off their blood, and deer are one such host. Some ticks carry Lyme disease. Ticks are very tiny and they have an anaesthetic in their jaws so you may not even know you have been bitten,” said Ms Moloney.

Some infected people show no symptoms, but the most common evidence of infection is a rash that is seen in about three quarters of victims.
The red, raised, skin rash can last up to a month and can be several inches in diameter.

People can also complain of flu-like symptoms such as headache, sore throat, neck stiffness, fever, muscle aches, and general fatigue.

“What we should be doing is highlighting awareness and encourage quick diagnosis and treatment of this debilitating disease,” the senator urged.

“Occasionally, the patient may carry Lyme disease but have no outwardly obvious symptoms. Ill-health may crop up years later following an illness, or period of stress. This leads to late Lyme disease, where symptoms are similar to multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, or Parkinson’s disease.”

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