THE south of England has been earmarked as a high risk area for Lyme disease.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said some areas appear to have higher prevalence of infected ticks which cause the disease.

The bacterial infection can lead to conditions such as meningitis or heart failure if left untreated.

Ticks can be found in woodland and heath areas.

Areas known to have a particularly high population of ticks include the New Forest and other rural areas of Hampshire, the South Downs, parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire, parts of Surrey and West Sussex, Thetford Forest in Norfolk, the Lake District, the North York Moors and the Scottish Highlands.

Not everyone who gets bitten by a tick will be infected with Lyme disease as only a small proportion carry the bacteria which causes the condition.

It's estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.

A new draft guideline from the health body states: "Infected ticks are found throughout the UK and Ireland, and although some areas appear to have a higher prevalence of infected ticks, prevalence data are incomplete."

It has also set out a series of recommendations on how the condition can be assessed and treated.

These include: diagnosing people who present with a distinctive rash - often described as looking like a bulls eye on a dart board - without needing to refer them for further tests.