The south of England and the Scottish Highlands have been earmarked as high risk areas 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. But the health body said prevalence data is incomplete as it called for a large study into the condition in the UK.
Better information on incidence, presenting clinical features, management and outcome of Lyme disease both in hospitals and GP services will mean that services can be tailored to suit those infected, Nice said.
It is estimated that there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year.
But Nice said this could be an underestimation because there is no requirement for GPs or hospital clinicians to report the number of cases.
A new draft guideline from Nice 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.
“Particularly high-risk areas are the south of England and Scottish Highlands but infection can occur in many areas.”
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 bullseye on a dart board – without needing to refer them for further tests.
Medics have also been urged not to rule out Lyme disease if a person who has symptoms of the disease is unsure whether they have been bitten by a tick.
Antibiotics should be used to treat the condition but if symptoms persist after treatment, a GP should consider a referral to a specialist, the guideline adds.
“Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose as people can have common and unspecific symptoms, like a headache or fever, and they may not notice or remember a tick bite,” said Saul Faust, professor of paediatric immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Southampton.
“Our draft guidance will give GPs and hospital doctors clear advice on how to diagnose if they think Lyme disease is a possibility,” said Faust who also chairs the guideline committee.
It emerged in August that former England rugby captain Matt Dawson underwent heart surgery after being bitten by a tick in a London park.
The 44-year-old developed feverish symptoms after visiting the park early last year and was later diagnosed with Lyme disease, he told the BBC.
Dawson is now free of the disease, having undergone multiple heart operations and endured 18 months of treatment.
The bacterial infection, caused by infected ticks, can lead to conditions such as meningitis or heart failure if left untreated.
Ticks can be found in woodland and heath areas. The tiny spider-like creatures, which can carry the bacteria responsible for the disease, are found throughout the UK and in other parts of Europe and North America.
Areas known to have a particularly high population of ticks include: Exmoor, 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.