London (AFP) - England's 2003 World Cup-winning scrum-half Matt Dawson revealed Monday he has undergone heart surgery due to being bitten by a tick in a park in London last year.
The 44-year-old -- who won 77 caps for his country and played seven times for the British and Irish Lions -- said he would never have thought he was running such a risk going for a walk in a London park with his children.
"I had two days where I felt awful. Very feverish, on the sofa, crashed out," Dawson, who was diagnosed with Lyme disease which is a bacterial infection caused by infected ticks, told the BBC.
"It was a really scary time for me and my family. Such a tiny creature caused me to end up needing heart surgery."
Dawson no longer has the disease though it has taken several heart procedures and he still has to take medication.
"I'm still on medication and its going to take a lot of time for the heart to fully recover," he said.
"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," added Dawson, who has used the experience to join up with the Big Tick Project, which looks to raise awareness about the dangers of ticks and tick-borne disease in the UK.