Today is Lyme Awareness Day, and people who spend time outdoors - for work or leisure - are advised to protect themselves and their families against contracting Lyme disease, which is spread by biting ticks.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre says that, from April onwards they expect to see more frequent cases of Lyme disease, as this is when ticks are most plentiful.

The tiny creatures are active from Spring to Autumn, feeding on the blood of humans, animals and birds

Tick bites can be prevented by wearing long trousers and long sleeves and shoes, wearing a hat, using inspect repellant, checking for ticks and removing any from clothing, outdoor gear and pets.

The most common sign of infection is a skin rash, and anyone who develops symptoms should visit a GP and explain they've been bitten by a tick.

Most cases of Lyme disease are mild, but in a small number of cases, the infection can be more severe leading to serious disease of the nervous system, heart and joints.

The HSE says there are between 100 and 200 cases of Lyme disease in Ireland annually, of which about 10% are more severe and have to be reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

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