WALKERS and cyclists are being warned about a rise in ticks and fleas.
The Lancashire Wildlife Trust issued the advice after experts from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences highlighted the problem.
A warning has been delivered by Richard Wall, Professor of Zoology at Bristol University, who estimates there are as many as 20 ticks in every square metre of woodland.
Infected ticks can cause quite serious problems, particularly Lyme disease if they are not treated with respect.
Symptoms of Lyme disease begin with a rash around the bite and then flu-like headaches, tiredness and aching muscles.
More serious cases can cause partial paralysis of the face and loss of feeling in the joints.
There are fears that a wet and mild winter has left vast numbers of the disease-carrying arachnids lurking in the undergrowth.
The wildlife trust has said that arachnids, related to spiders, are not a new problem in Lancashire, in woods, bracken or grassland areas in the north and central areas of the county.
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They are generally associated with deer, but they also attach themselves to cattle, cats and dogs and humans.
Communications officer at Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Alan Wright, said: “Ticks attach themselves to humans and feed by biting through the skin and sucking blood.
“The main problem is removing them because they bury their heads into your skin.
“You can remove them with tweezers but there are small and inexpensive devices to remove them.
“It’s better not to use your fingers as this may result in the tick being squashed and its saliva and part of its guts entering your bloodstream. There are guidelines about how they can be removed.”
Mr Wright added: “We have had at least two cases of our officers getting Lyme disease from ticks over the years, so while it is not common it is quite nasty.
“We have a section on the disease in our health and safety guidelines and ticks are part of any risk assessment when we are working on woodland and grassland reserves.
“It’s been around a very long time and it is just a case of treating ticks with respect.”