A Donegal man who suffered terribly after contracting what is known as Lyme Disease is urging people to be aware of its dangers and to find out more about it.

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection passed to humans through a tick bite. Ticks are small insects that are most prevalent during the months from April to September.

Charlie Harkin, from Carndonagh, (pictured below)has been through a truly testing time fighting the disease which at one stage left him unable to speak and unable to use his right side.

  Charlie Harkin. PHOTO: Clive Wasson

For years he did not know what was wrong with him, despite extensive tests. Eventually,  in 2013, he was diagnosed with the disease.

Now he is on the road to recovery and says he is 80% back to normal.

However,  he is still paying out over €500 a month for immune boosters that are imported from the Netherlands.

Addressing the Co Donegal Executive of the IFA at its monthly meeting in Letterkenny,  he outlined his story and how for years he went undiagnosed.

A plasterer by trade and also a passionate farmer, he was left unable to work and he is full of gratitude for his wife and how she kept things afloat during his illness.

“I owe my world to her,” he said.

He warned people to take extra care if they get a tick bite and to contact their GP for advice.

“It’s the worst disease you could get both mentally and physically,” he added.

He pointed out that if the disease is caught early it can be healed in three weeks.

A website called ticktalkireland.org  is a useful resource for more information,

It explains how an infection starts with a tick bite and symptoms usually follow a few days or weeks after a bite. The first signs are an erythema migrans (EM), or "bulls eye" rash that generally radiates outwards from the source of the bite.

The presence of a rash is a strong indicator of infection with Lyme disease although it might not be present in up to 50% of patients. Chronic flu like symptoms and fatigue are usually experienced soon after an infection.

Occasionally, the patient may carry Lyme disease but have no outwardly obvious symptoms. Ill health may crop up years later following an illness or period of stress.

This leads to disseminated (or late) Lyme disease, where symptoms are similar to Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Parkinson’s disease. Lyme disease can lead to joint pain, weakness, muscle aches, pelvic pain, visual problems, tremors, headaches and heart problems, and can even result in paralysis and loss of sight.

He has now set up a support group which has 22 members.

“If only one life can be saved it will be worth it,” he said.

For more information the Facebook page is called Donegal Lyme Disease and Co-Infections.

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