Tick Bite in Chiswick House Grounds Left Matt Dawson Needing Surgery

Rugby World Cup winner contracted Lyme disease while exercising in park


Rugby Star Matt Dawson Campaigns For Meningitis Vaccination

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Chiswick resident and rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson has told of how a tiny bite from a tick resulted in 18 months of ill health and heart surgery.

Matt told us he was exercising in the grounds of Chiswick House in 2015 when he suffered the bite which resulted in him catching Lyme disease. He was doing some training including floor exercises at the time he was bitten.

Matt Dawson

Matt Dawson

He didn’t notice it immediately and never saw the tick that bit him but soon afterwards he developed a target shaped rash. Initially he ignored it but became increasingly feverish and was persuaded to visit his GP and a blood test gave the diagnosis. The infection had spread to such an extent that he required multiple heart operations and he still has to take medication as it will take more time for his heart to fully recover.

Matt told the BBC, "I'd heard of Lyme disease before. It was something I'd always associated with places abroad, on the continent, in America, wherever there were deer.

"There's no way that I would've walked through a wood or a forest with my kids and gone back home and thought, 'right, I'll just check for some ticks just to make sure everything is fine'. I just wouldn't have thought of that."

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection which spreads through the body. Incidents are estimated to have risen fourfold in the UK over the last ten years. The peak season for tick bites is April to October but they can occur at any time of the year. Generally speaking ticks are found in woodland and heath areas. Only a small proportion of ticks carry Lyme disease so a bite doesn’t necessarily mean you have been infected.

Prompt treatment with antibiotics can prevent the disease spreading. The target shaped bite mark that Matt got is called erythema migrans and develops in the days after the bite. However, it does not present in all cases.

Matt is now working with the Big Tick Project to increase awareness of the potential dangers of ticks and tick bites. A study by researchers at the University of Bristol examined 14,000 dogs across the UK and discovered that just less than a third were carrying a tick.

We contacted the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust for a comment but have yet to receive a response.

August 22, 2017

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