SNP president Mike Russell, who lives in Argyll, has been unlucky – this is his second bout of the disease, which requires an immediate course of strong antibiotics from your GP and if left untreated can have serious and life-changing impacts.
By Lucy Ashton
Well if the Labour and SNP politicians in West Dunbartonshire, who are persisting with their much maligned (no) grass cutting policies didn’t believe they were creating a danger then they might believe it now.
The SNP’s president Mike Russell has revealed he contracted Lyme disease for the second time this summer as he warned Scots not to ignore the symptoms.
The 69-year-old former MSP said he suffered a “rash, flu-like symptoms and unusual tiredness” after catching the disease. He admitted it set him back and he missed a number of engagements, including Winnie Ewing’s memorial.
Writing in The National recently, he warned: “In 2013, when I had my first infection, I thought I had a summer cold. This year I put my sneezing and runny eyes down to hay fever and, even when the rash appeared, I wasn’t sure what the problem was.
“Always reluctant to seek a doctor’s appointment – even though I have great local GPs – it was only when I got concerned that my rash, flu-like symptoms and unusual tiredness might be connected that I took the plunge.”
There are now more than 2000 cases of Lyme disease every year in the UK, although most experts believe the actual number of infections could be three or even four times higher.
The disease is spread by deer ticks and the most common symptom is the tell-tale ‘bullseye’ rash. If left untreated, it can progress to serious, even fatal health conditions, from arthritis and nerve pain to cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or Lyme neuroborreliosis (inflammation of the brain and spine).
Mr Russell warned that “GPs are therefore advised to start a suspected sufferer on an intensive three-week course of strong antibiotics without delay”.
Despite living in Argyll and Bute for years, he said he first became aware of Lyme disease when he was appointed as Alex Salmond’s environment minister in 2007.
“Alarmed” at the surge in cases from a “couple of dozen” each year in the 1990s, he was introduced to a person who was hospitalised and left wheelchair-bound.
He added: “Later, I met others who had suffered severely debilitating long-term effects, often from what is called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.”
And Mr Russell even appeared to admit the SNP executive has played a role in the surge in Lyme disease, which has been linked to climate change, the reduction in sheep numbers and the “massive increase” in deer numbers. This, he acknowledged, has been “the result of a long-term policy failure”.
Top picture: West Dunbartonshire Council Provost Douglas McAllister, left, promised to cut the grass properly in public spaces (see here) but it hasn’t happened yet. Perhaps he will stick to his pledge before the summer is out and what’s left of it is spoiled by the disaster which has been the failure to keep Dunbarton tidy. If it happens we could have a civic reception to celebrate? Editor