8% of Luxembourg population in contact with Lyme Disease bacteria

Photo: Lyme Borreliosis Facebook page

A Luxembourg association called “Lyme Borreliosis” began life in early June this year, and aims to promote research, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme Disease which is caused by a bacteria transmitted in ticks. In the Grand Duchy, 8 percent of the population has been in contact with the Lyme Disease bacteria.

Sofia Araújo was bitten by a tick at a scout camp in Luxembourg in 2009 and contracted "Lyme Borreoliose" , also known as Lyme Disease.

"The incident occurred in 2009, but I didn't get treatment until 2010. I caught the disease while staying in scout huts. There was tall grass, around the camp and I was bitten by tick," said Sofia Araujo, president of the new association.

Lyme Disease is caused by bacteria, often transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. There may be up to 800 different symptoms but the most common are fatigue and body aches.

"At the start you may only have one or two symptoms, and later you may or may not develop the disease, so it is not an automatic thing if you're bitten by an infected tick. Today there are about 800 known symptoms, which vary from case to case. Fatigue and body aches are the most common," explained Sofia.

In the case of Sofia symptoms were joint problems, loss of consciousness, impaired hearing and vision. "Symptoms come and go, but the fatigue remains.”

As for treatment, Sofia explained these are based on antibiotics, essential oils and plant extracts. However, because her diagnosis was late, it is not yet known whether the treatment is having an effect.

"There is not much information and at the beginning I had more severe symptoms and was told not much could be done and that there was no such disease. It was a shock because if I had received the treatment at that time as I do today, I would not be in the situation I am in now. I still have to finish an eight-week treatment, and I still can't say if it is working or not," sighed the Sofia, a 26-year-old Portuguese resident living in Luxembourg since the age of eight.

In Luxembourg, according to data from the Centre for Public Health Research (CRPS) and the National Health Laboratory, 16 percent of ticks are infected with Lyme Disease agents and 38 percent of forest workers and 8 percent of the general public have come in contact with the bacteria.

"Adult ticks can be found mainly in tall grass and smaller ticks in dead leaves on the ground. But they can also easily reach people through domestic animals," explained Sofia.

Bacteria of an infected mother tick can also can pass to her young. Cooking meat from wild animals that have contracted Lyme Disease may also be a risk factor for transmission.

"I've heard many people say that when removing a tick you should use oil or butter to make it easier or burn with a cigarette to kill it. But this is not true. While a tick is sucking blood there is no harm. It is only while being removed that a liquid can be excreted from the insect that could contain the infectious bacteria. The best is to remove with caution and try not to traumatise it. The less liquid excreted, the lower the chances are of being infected," advised the president of the association.

"The association already has some doctors and other members, but we would like more people to join and we also plan to create a website to share information to achieve a major goal. This is to collaborate with the Centre for Public Health Research in order to organise an information day about the disease in Luxembourg. CRPS and the National Health Laboratory are carrying out a study on the disease and we would like to partner with them," concluded Sofia.

In you are interested you can contact the association through its Facebook page (ALBLyme).