'I needed heart operations after contracting Lyme disease in park' - Former rugby player
Former England rugby captain Matt Dawson has revealed how he underwent heart surgery after being bitten by a tick.
The 44-year-old developed feverish symptoms after visiting a park in London early last year and was later diagnosed with Lyme disease, he told the BBC.
The bacterial infection, caused by infected ticks, can lead to conditions such as meningitis or heart failure if left untreated and can even prove fatal.
Dawson said: "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."
He added: "It was a really scary time for me and my family. Such a tiny creature caused me to end up needing heart surgery."
Dawson is now free of the disease, having undergone multiple heart operations and endured 18 months of treatment, the BBC said.
But he said: "I'm still on medication and its going to take a lot of time for the heart to fully recover."
The sporting star has teamed up with The Big Tick Project, which was co-founded by TV presenter Chris Packham, to raise awareness of the dangers of ticks, the BBC reported.
According to the NHS, there are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales every year.
It advises that it can be treated effectively if symptoms, which can include a circular rash around the bite, are detected early.