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Concerned about tick bite? UMass offers testing service

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During the summer, when outdoor activities are popular and wooded areas are populated with active biting insects, one concern is the possibility of insect-borne ailments such as Lyme disease. Caused by a spirochete known as Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease can be transmitted to humans by the bite of deer ticks. Although a Lyme-infected individual may become concerned upon discovering a bull's-eye rash (erythema migrans) around a tick bite, not all Lyme patients display the rash.

The Mayo Clinic recommends immediate, careful removal of any tick found attached to the body. Experts agree that removed ticks should not be discarded, but saved in a sealed container (such as a Ziploc plastic bag). If a tick bite victim develops symptoms, having the tick available for analysis can be valuable in discerning whether the person has contracted Lyme or another tick-borne ailment. A tick-bitten individual who would prefer not to wait has the option of having the tick analyzed prior to the onset of symptoms.

One lab that performs such analyses is the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Individuals who have removed a tick may send it in a sealed container to the University of Massachusetts Zoology Lab, 209 Fernald Hall, 270 Stockbridge Road, Amherst MA 01003. Within one week, the university will provide a report indicating whether the tick had fed on its host and whether the tick carried pathogens. The university provides this service free to Massachusetts residents; other tick bite victims are typically charged $50 for testing for Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme), Babesia microti, and Anaplasma phagocytophilum. Testing for additional pathogens can be performed for an additional fee.

For Lehigh Valley residents, East Stroudsburg University's tick testing kit is another option. The kit, which includes removal instructions and tools, costs $7.95; testing of a tick removed with the kit costs an additional $39.95 and covers only Borrelia burgdorferi.