With the deer stalking season back in full swing and red stag stalking underway in Scotland, Lyme disease is back in the spotlight.

Former England rugby captain Matt Dawson has revealed he had to have heart surgery after being bitten by a tick.

He was bitten by the bug in London while visiting a park early last year and was later diagnosed with the disease.

Matt Dawson in his rugby-playing days

The infection caused by tick bites can lead to possible conditions such as meningitis, heart failure or can even be fatal if left untreated.

And the World Cup winner, who has 77 caps for England, is doing all he can to raise awareness of the disease, after he has had multiple heart operations and 18 months of treatment to rid him of the illness.

Dawson, said: “I’d heard of Lyme disease before. It was something I’d always associated with places abroad – on the continent, in America, wherever there were deer.

“There’s no way that I would’ve walked through a wood or a forest with my kids and gone back home and thought, right, I’ll just check for some ticks just to make sure everything is fine. I just wouldn’t have thought of that.”

“It was a really scary time for me and my family. Such a tiny creature caused me to end up needing heart surgery.”

Matt Dawson, the tick and the park

“I’m still on medication and it’s going to take a lot of time for the heart to fully recover. This is not something that should be looked at like: ‘oh it’s only a tick, a tick is a bit like a flea, its fine!’

“These ticks carry some really quite potent, serious bacteria and they can cause you a lot of problems. Raising awareness of them is imperative.”

Dawson is now working with The Big Tick Project to raise awareness of the dangers of ticks.

Former rugby star warns of the dangers of tick bites