As anyone who spends enough time outdoors knows, ticks are a problem. A simple walk through the woods or even a trek through the backyard can result in at least one crawling across your skin. Even with protective measures such as light-colored clothing, and thoroughly checking yourself after, the occasional tick succeeds in embedding itself in your skin.
We’ve been taught that removing the tick and watching the area for a bullseye mark is the way to go. However, there’s more available than that. Pennsylvania residents can now submit their ticks for free basic disease testing at East Stroudsburg University’s Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania. (People living outside of Pennsylvania can have their tick tested for a fee of $50.)
PA Tick Research Lab is a university-affiliated lab based in East Stroudsburg that is dedicated to providing fast, highly rated, laboratory-quality tick testing to people in high-risk areas for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases nationwide. Unlike traditional laboratories’ complicated test requisition forms, PA Tick Research Lab has a simple, easy to use interface for ordering tick tests. Head to www.ticklab.org, click “test my tick,” and fill out the form.
No kit is needed for collecting and sending a tick specimen.After you complete the order process, you’ll receive instructions for mailing the tick for testing.
Simply place your tick in a sealed plastic bag and mail it, along with your order receipt, to the laboratory.
With tick-borne illnesses appearing all over the U.S., tick testing is more important than ever. If you’re bitten by an infected tick, you may not know you’re infected for days or weeks. But if you have the tick tested for harmful pathogens, you’ll be able to seek treatment ahead of the symptoms, increasing your chances of staying healthy.
Ticks do not have to be alive to be tested, but be aware that burning a tick could affect the results. Although there is no time limit for a tick to be tested, it is best to send your tick in as soon as possible.
Once the lab receives your basic-test order and the tick, they run the tests and email you the results. (Results can also be printed and mailed for an extra charge.) The results are generally in your inbox within 72 hours of receiving the tick.
Deer ticks are tested for four different pathogens: Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (anaplasmosis), Babesia microti (babesiosis) and Powassan virus Lineage II (deer tick virus).
Non-deer ticks are tested for Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease), Ehrlichia chaffeensis (ehrlichiosis) Rickettsia general species (Rocky Mountain spotted fever) and Francisella tularensis (tularemia).
The results can be faxed to your doctor (or your pet’s veterinarian) as well if you include the number for them when you order.
Though no amount of testing will get rid of that creepy-crawly feeling a tick gives when you find one on your skin, this testing should give you peace of mind that you’re healthy after an encounter, or a head start on the treatment you’ll need.
Humans are usually bitten by nymphs and adults. It is possible to be bitten by larvae, but ticks in their early stages tend to prefer smaller animals. They’re also more difficult to spot than larger ticks, so bites from larvae may go unnoticed. Nymphs may cause more instances of illness than adults do because they are less likely to be discovered while feeding. In the adult-life stage, only female ticks transmit disease because male ticks are not known to feed on blood.
Tick bites are a threat throughout the year. While spring and summer are considered peak deer tick seasons, ticks may feed any time the temperature is above 32-degrees Fahrenheit.
Deer Tick (Eastern blacklegged Tick)
Although it’s one of North America’s most common ticks, the deer tick is hard to spot thanks to its small size. (It’s about the same size as a sesame seed.) This tick is identifiable by its reddish-brown color and the black shield on its back. It uses narrow-mouth parts in feeding. The deer tick is also known as the blacklegged tick.
The deer tick has been identified in every U.S. state except Hawaii. Within the U.S., the deer tick it most prevalent in the Northeast, Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes region.
American Dog Tick
The biggest of North America’s common ticks, the American dog tick is brown with pointed mouth parts. Its dorsal shield features white markings near the tick’s head. The American dog tick is known for biting dogs, but it also feeds on humans.
This tick’s range includes everything east of the Rocky Mountains. It is also found in parts of the West Coast.
Lone Star Tick
The lone star tick is a reddish-brown color with festoons along the outer portion of their body. Adult females have a white spot (a “lone star”) on the dorsal shield. Adults are around 3mm long.
The lone star tick is commonly found in the Southeastern, Eastern and Midwestern U.S., but recent data shows that the species is spreading further north and west.
Asian Longhorned Tick
The Asian longhorned tick has recently been discovered in the United States. It is typically found in China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries.
They have been found in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Connecticut and Maryland.
Ticklab.org recommends the following preventative measures to keep yourself protected.