Lyme disease may not be something you think about very often but you should. Anyone who spends time working outside such as farmers, game keepers and livestock handlers, are risk of contracting Lyme disease which,

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks, tiny spider-like creatures found in woodland and heath areas which feed on the blood of birds and mammals, including humans. Ticks that carry the bacteria responsible for Lyme disease are found throughout the UK and in other parts of Europe and North America. Less commonly, ticks transmit Anaplasmosis, Rickettsia, Babesiosis (the cause of ‘red water fever’ in cattle), Q Fever and viruses such as louping ill which may affect sheep.

Ticks thrive where there is enough humidity from vegetation to prevent them from drying out. Typically this occurs in deciduous woodland, rough pasture and moorland, but similar conditions may occur in urban parks and gardens. Ticks need animals to feed on, such as small rodents, ground-feeding birds and larger mammals such as sheep and deer. Although sheep and deer may carry ticks, research has shown that they have some natural immunity to Lyme disease.

It is the small mammals, such as mice, voles, hedgehogs and ground-feeding birds, which are the main reservoir for Lyme disease. Lyme disease can be found throughout the UK and the number of cases has been steadily increasing with farmers, foresters, game-keepers and animal handlers at increased risk due to the higher likelihood of exposure. Ticks are most active between March and October so new cases of early Lyme disease tend to present during this period, though during warmer winters ticks can remain active throughout the year. South west and south east England, together with the Scottish Highlands have the highest number of recorded cases.

It's estimated there are 2,000 to 3,000 new cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year. About 15 per cent of cases occur while people are abroad. Lyme disease can often be treated effectively if it's detected early on. But if it's not treated, or treatment is delayed, there's a risk you could develop severe and long-lasting symptoms.

The risk of Lyme disease transmission increases with the length of time the tick remains attached so it is important to check for ticks after you have been outside. If you find a tick, remove it with fine tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool by gently gripping the tick as close to the skin as possible and pulling steadily without twisting. Do not try to remove the tick by covering it with petroleum jelly or attempting to burn if off with a cigarette.

The sooner you remove the tick, the less chance there is you will be infected. But ticks are very small and their bites are not painful, so you may not realise you have one attached to your skin. An important early sign of Lyme disease is a ‘bull’s-eye’ skin rash called Erythema migrans which typically occurs three to thirty days after the bite of an infected tick. The rash expands slowly and is usually not itchy or painful. One in three people do not notice this rash which makes the disease harder to diagnose in the early stages.

Flu-like symptoms, extreme tiredness and headache occur and, if left untreated, the disease may spread throughout the body to the nervous system, joints, skin, heart and eyes, causing a range of symptoms such as facial palsy and nerve root pain. Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease and the sooner this is started, the greater the chance of a good recovery. Prevention includes avoiding tick bites where possible, deterrents such as DEET or permethrin and prompt tick removal. Occupationally acquired Lyme disease is reportable under RIDDOR regulations. Lyme Disease Action provides free awareness leaflets and information.

The son of a Devon farmer who caught Lyme disease is raising funds for the charity in the RideLondon sponsored cycle ride. To sponsor Graham, obtain leaflets or buy tick removers.

To sponsor Graham, visit  

To obtain leaflets or buy tick removers see the Lyme Disease Action website