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The risk of Lyme disease

The risk of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia bacteria and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected ticks, Aidan Murray, Teagasc Beef Specialist, tells us more.

After such a poor spring, it is nice to have longer days and grass growing - albeit slower than we want. You might even be tempted to pull on a pair of shorts, if temperatures warm up, to boost your vitamin D levels.

The milder winters we are experiencing will impact on many things. One area, however, that we might not think too much about is that it is increasing the numbers and geographic spread of ticks.

Most of you will know that ticks pose a risk to naïve cattle of getting red water, by transmitting a protozoan called Babesia which attacks red blood cells. What many people might not know is that ticks can also pose a risk to human health if you are bitten by one. The risk is from picking up Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Although the risk is small, it is something that we should be aware of if we find a tick on our body or feel that we have been bitten by a tick we should be vigilant.

While walking in wooded areas on the farm or walking through long grass, avoid bare skin by wearing a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers and use a DEET-based insect repellent. Check yourself over to see if you have been bitten by a tick. Areas such as armpits, groin, backs of the knees, etc. need careful attention.

If you have been bitten by a tick, record the date and location of the tick bite on your body, as symptoms may not manifest themselves immediately. Carefully remove the tick using tweezers and disinfect the bite.

If you have been bitten, get it checked out by your GP. Also, if you have symptoms you can’t explain, mention Lyme disease to your GP as it can be a difficult disease to diagnose correctly.


You may have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as:

  • A high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery;
  • Headaches;
  • Muscle and joint pain;
  • Tiredness and loss of energy.

Most people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular red skin rash around a tick bite.

Figure 1: Symptoms of Lyme disease (Image source: hse.ie)

Symptoms of Lyme disease. The rash can look like a bull's-eye on a dartboard or the skin will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised

Image source: hse.ie

The rash can appear up to three months after being bitten by a tick. Most rashes appear within the first four weeks and usually last for several weeks. Not everyone with Lyme disease will get the rash.

Although most tick bites will be harmless, for people that develop Lyme disease it can be quite debilitating if left untreated.


It can be difficult to diagnose, but confirmation of Lyme disease will usually be from blood testing.


Most people with Lyme disease get better after antibiotic treatment. This can take months for some people, but the symptoms should improve over time. In severe cases, a patient may be hospitalised for antibiotic treatment.

For further information on Lyme disease go to the HSE.ie website


Teagasc staff are in the midst of preparing for BEEF2024, the Teagasc National Beef Open Day, taking place in Teagasc Grange, Co. Meath, Eircode: C15 PW93, on June 26 from 9am to 4pm. In addition to focusing on the application of technologies that will help beef farmers increase the profitability and environmental sustainability of their family farm businesses, the event will feature a Farming Lifestyle Exhibit. This exhibit will showcase farm safety practices, while a focus will also be placed on cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and control, farmer wellbeing and farmer mental health.

Find out more about BEEF2024 here.