Secondary bacterial infections are a common complication of insect bites and stings. They include:
• Cellulitis - an infection that makes your skin red, swollen and painful
• Folliculitis - inflammation (redness and swelling) of one or more hair follicles (the small hole in your skin that an individual hair grows out of)
• Lymphangitis - an infection that causes red streaks in your armpit or groin and swollen lymph nodes (small glands that are part of the immune system)
• An infection may occur if you scratch an insect bite or sting, or it may be introduced at the time you are bitten.
Infections are usually treated with antibiotics.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a species of tick known as Ixodes ricinus. Ticks are not strictly insects, but small arachnids.
Lyme disease is uncommon, there are between 1,000 and 2,000 cases in England and Wales every year. The initial infection is characterised by a red rash that gradually expands outwards from the site of the bite. Antibiotics are usually used to treat the infection.
If untreated, the long-term effects of Lyme disease include problems with the nervous system such as:
• Facial palsy - weakness of the facial muscles that causes drooping of one or both sides of the face
The condition can also damage the joints, which can lead to arthritis and heart problems (occasionally), such as inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and inflammation of the thin, two-layered, sac-like tissue that surrounds the heart (pericarditis).
West Nile Virus
West Nile virus is an infection with flu-like symptoms spread by mosquitoes.
There have been no reported cases of West Nile virus in the UK, but there have been cases elsewhere in the world. Since 2001, the HPA and the Department of Health have been raising awareness of the infection.
Malaria is a tropical disease caused by an infection of the red blood cells. It can be transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.