Lyme Disease

Health written question – answered on 15th December 2004.

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Photo of Andrew Lansley Andrew Lansley Shadow Secretary of State for Health

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what research he is undertaking into Lyme disease and its treatment;

(2) what steps he is taking to raise awareness of Lyme disease among healthcare professionals;

(3) how many reports of Lyme disease there have been in England in each year since 1986; and if he will make a statement;

(4) what steps he is taking to improve the treatment and management of Lyme disease within the national health service.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

Surveillance of Lyme disease has been in place in England and Wales since 1986, and was enhanced in 1996 to provide a more complete clinical picture.

A total of 2,199 reports of Lyme disease were received between 1986 and 2003. Around 20 per cent., of these cases are known to have been acquired abroad.

Total reports received
1986 to 1992 227
1993 to 1996 235
1997 to 2000 803
2001 261
2002 340
2003 (provisional data) 330

Advice to doctors about the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease are readily available. Highly sensitive tests for the detection of Lyme disease are readily available and accessible across the national health service. Public health officials in areas such as the New Forest, where the risks of being bitten by an infected tick are highest, have made their local general practitioners aware of relevant symptoms.

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, usually doxycycline or amoxicillin and early treatment usually clears the initial rash within several days and helps to prevent the development of complications. More serious symptoms also respond to antibiotic treatment. Detailed studies have shown excellent long-term outcomes for most people who receive appropriate treatment. Guidance on the treatment of Lyme disease is available on the Health Protection Agency's (HPA) website:

Workshops organised jointly by the Department of Health, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the HPA were held in 2001 and 2002 to further raise awareness of healthcare professionals. These workshops brought together leading experts on the disease.

Following the completion of eight research projects investigating aspects of Lyme disease, the latest being in 1999, the Department is not currently undertaking research into Lyme disease.

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