Kerry County Council is to erect signs on council-owned land in the vicinity of forest walks and at the entrance to the Killarney National Park warning of the possibility of contracting Lyme disease.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is also to place warnings on all its websites, in an effort to counteract what is believed to be an increase in the incidence of Lyme disease in the Kerry region.
The move follows calls by several county councillors from the Killarney area, alarmed at the number of people claiming to suffer from Lyme disease in the district. The disease, which is caught from ticks from deer and other wild animals, has also been raised at council and other public meetings.
According to the HSE, Kerry had four cases notified in 2016; and two each year for 2017 and 2018. The HSE says there have been no cases notified from Kerry so far this year.
The local authority is consulting with the HSE about the exact nature of the wording it needs to place on the signs.
The warning signs are expected to advise on clothing as well as tick checking after getting home.
The NPWS said the Safe Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued to staff contained advice on ticks.
“We have also held Lyme disease information sessions for staff and provide them with tick-removing devices,” the NPWS said in a statement.
Precautions and advice
It said while there was no specific signage outdoors highlighting Lyme disease and precautions people could take, all its websites would shortly include advice.
“The websites will be updated regularly with new information and this will include information for visitors on Lyme disease. The websites are our primary contact method for visitors.”
The NPWS said sticking to paths would minimise risk.
“The majority of visitors to the national parks tend to use the paths and trails provided which, due to the material surface and width of the paths, reduces the risk of being bitten by a tick unless someone goes off trail,” it said.
Independent Killarney councillor Maura Healy Rae, who has raised the issue at council meetings, has criticised the national park for not erecting signs. She said the disease could transfer to humans within 12 hours of them being bitten by a tick and people needed to be made aware of what to do.
She noted the Loreto primary school in Muckross, Killarney, had produced tick-removal kits .
“The children are doing more than the authorities in fighting the spread. It is incredible that children are seeking to make the public more aware of the problem than a Government agency,” she said.