+ Who should worry about tick-borne disease?

Anyone spending time outdoors--in the garden, on the trail, or around the playing field--should be aware of the risk of exposure to ticks and tick-borne disease. But that risk should not be debilitating. Think of it as another precaution like wearing sunscreen to protect from sun. With proper precaution, risk of tick bite exposures can be kept in proper perspective. Don't let fear of ticks keep you from enjoying outdoor activities. If you do get bitten by a tick, don't despair. Pull the tick off as soon as you find it using a pair of fine forceps. Not all ticks are infected, so consider having your tick tested to determine if it represents a risk to you. And as always, see your healthcare provider if you experience signs of illness.

+ How much does it cost?

Our Standard DNA package (which costs $50 or less), includes tests for the most common tick pathogen. As part of the this Standard Package we identify the tick, photograph it (dorsal and ventral), assess its feeding condition and provide test results for presence of seven major pathogens; including Borrelia (Lyme disease), Anaplasma (Anaplasmosis) and Babesia (Babesiosis). The tests applied will depend upon the species of tick you send us. You don't need to know what species of tick you have, we’ll make that determination once we receive your tick. We also offer a Standard DNA+RNA test package that includes tests for viruses such as Powassan and Heartland viruses.

+ Why should I consider getting my tick tested?

The results of the tick test ( aka TickReport) is not a substitute for medical consultation or diagnosis, but your TickReport does provide information about risk to you individually and when we look at all the ticks we collect, we can also provide valuable information to the rest of the world. After being bitten by a tick, many people will want to see a healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider can only guess whether your tick is a risk based on estimates of how long it has fed and what kind of tick it is. S/he may decide to prescribe an antibiotic based just on your having been bitten. Blood test results will not be possible for weeks after your tick bite. But TickReport can take part of the guesswork out of the visit. Within three business days of receiving your tick (often in the same day), we can give you highly accurate information about what is inside your tick to help make better-informed decisions about protecting yourself from illnesses.

+ What are the public benefits of tick testing?

Previous studies of tick disease looked either at human disease cases or ticks captured in the field. Both kinds of studies are important, but they don’t track the missing link between people and infected ticks. This is valuable information for assessing location and timing of disease risk. And because the lab is a not-for-profit public institution with a mission to inform the public about the risk of tick-borne disease, we collect and post information to the general public about where people are getting bitten by ticks, when those bites occur, and what pathogens are involved in those bites. This information is of great value to the general public as well as agencies trying to track tick-borne diseases.

+ Is my information kept private?

Absolutely. Your personal contact information is only used to send your results. Generic information like your tick bite are included in our passive surveillance, but there is no link with personal identity. For example, we may report the number of ticks found on adults aged 21-45 in a given town, but no details of those adults are ever shared. We report these anonymous data is to let other people learn more about risks.

+ Does my tick have to be alive?

No, your tick does not have to be alive. We are able to test ticks that are alive or dead.

+ Is my tick too old to test?

Ticks can be stored for months (even years) under a variety of conditions and can still be tested. Our method (qPCR) detects nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) of the pathogen. DNA in particular is very stable for long periods of time. There are conditions that are unfavorable to preservation of DNA (such as soaking in bleach), but these are rare. Each TickReportTM includes a validation to determine that the nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) has been preserved and that the specimen is testable.

+ If the tick is broken, is it still testable?

Yes, a broken or partial tick can be tested to determine presence of pathogens. However, submitting “just a leg” might not yield representative results of what your tick could have been carrying in its gut or salivary glands.

+ Should I overnight my tick?

The time lapsed between tick removal and our receipt of the tick at the lab will not affect your test results. We have no control over the mail, so sending it via regular mail may take longer than you’d like! All US postal service deliveries (including USPS Priority mail) go through the University central processing, so if you receive a notice saying your mail was delivered, please allow time for it to arrive at our lab.

+ When can I expect my results?

We usually give results (via email) within 3 business days of receipt of your tick. An email will be sent to you with a private URL. Note: you will also receive email notification when we receive your tick.

+ How will I know if you have received my tick?

We will send you an email upon receipt of your tick with some basic identification information: species, life stage, sex, feeding status, and high quality micrographs.

+ I want to send more than one tick to be tested. How do I do that?

You will start by placing a separate order (with a separate payment) for each tick. Please place the ticks in their own baggies and label each with its respective order number. You may mail all of baggies in the same envelope or mailer, but kindly indicate in the “NOTES” section of the order form that multiple ticks are enclosed in a single package.

+ Can you tell who the tick has been feeding on?

While the DNA technology is available to identify hosts, we do not offer this service.

+ I got a positive result. Does that mean I have the disease? Do I need treatment?

We DO NOT give medical advice and our tests are not diagnostic of human disease. Transmission of a pathogen from the tick to you is dependent upon how long the tick had been feeding, and each pathogen has its own transmission time. TickReport is an excellent measure of exposure risk for that tick. Feel free to print out and share your TickReport with your healthcare provider.

+ My tick tested negative for everything. Do I need to continue prophylactic treatment?

We DO NOT give medical advice and our tests are not diagnostic of human disease. While the lab attests to the accuracy of the tests, we cannot be certain whether other ticks bit you and were undetected and untested.

+ How do I prevent tick-borne disease?

  • Consider using repellents like DEET and insecticides like permethrin;
  • Wear light colored long pants tucked into socks when taking a hike in the woods; this makes spotting a tick easier and prevents them from crawling up your pants.
  • When hiking in the woods, stay on clear paths and avoids the brush and leaf litter.
  • When you get home from an outdoor activity, remove your clothes and throw them in the dryer for about 30 minutes. Do this before you sit on your bed or sofa.
  • Do daily tick checks.
  • Keep your lawn very short and spray the perimeter of your yard to kill and ward off ticks.

If you find a tick on you, remove it immediately with a pair of fine tipped tweezers and wash the area with soap or antiseptic wipes. Consider having your tick checked for the presence of disease-causing agents.

+ What does it mean that my TickReport has a "Tick RNA quality" red box saying that "it failed"?

The RNA control is a test we do to determine whether there is amplifiable tick RNA in the specimen. It is a measure of the quality of the specimen. Approximately 20% of the specimens we receive fail this test. Tick RNA is not as durable as virus RNA, so the control is not a perfect determinant of quality. Ticks that fail this control have a higher chance of false-negative results than ticks that pass. This RNA control is only relevant to the viral tests. All other DNA-based tests (Borrelia, Babesia, Anaplasma, etc) are fully validated.