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Rugby star’s Lyme disease plight underlines key role of grouse moor management in fighting tick-borne health threat.

21st August 2017

Former England rugby player Matt Dawson’s revelation that he suffered from Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick today highlighted the role that grouse moor management plays in fighting the bacterial infection.

Dawson, capped 77 times for England and a World Cup winner in 2003, was bitten by a tick in a London park early last year which caused the bacterial infection to spread through his body.

After feeling unwell and taking himself to hospital, Dawson said he was floored by his diagnosis and ultimately needed heart surgery.

After several heart operations and 18 months of treatment, Dawson no longer has the disease. He has now joined forces with The Big Tick Project, which looks to raise awareness about the dangers of ticks and tick-borne disease in the UK.

The Moorland Association fully endorses efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of ticks and tick-borne disease in the UK.

In fact, the Moorland Association recently welcomed new research by the University of Glasgow which demonstrated the correlation of higher deer numbers and higher incidence of Lyme disease is positive.

The Moorland Association believes that this points to yet another example of the benefits of grouse moor management. The deer populations on Scottish grouse moors are carefully controlled thereby helping to limit incidences of Lyme disease in humans, a benefit to both the general public and the NHS.

Whilst deer are not as relevant to English moorland, the environment created by bracken beds has been shown to favour ticks with up to 70% of all activity in heath and dry moorland areas associated with bracken dominated habitats. Grouse moor management helps to reduce the spread of this invasive and potentially damaging species. Moorland Association members have treated over 65 square miles of invasive bracken to stop it swamping and killing other moorland plants.

Reduced tick prevalence as a result of “tick mops”; treating sheep with a solution that kills ticks or prevents them from feeding, is another highly effective method used to prevent the spread of disease on moorlands.

Technological innovations and developments continue to help in the battle against the scourge of ticks which live in bracken. Work is currently underway on an all-terrain intelligent weed spraying robot, with inbuilt plant identification data as well as research into the use of drones for chemical application.

Grouse moor managers continue to invest in the control of tick numbers. This in turn helps reduce the spread of tick borne diseases in both grouse and wader species and help protect visitors and their dogs.

For further information please use the links below:

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Did You Know?

75% of of the world’s remaining heather moorland is found in Britain – but this area declined alarmingly over the latter part of the last century. The Moorland Association was set up in 1986 to coordinate the efforts of moorland owners and managers to halt this loss, particularly in England and Wales.

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