Experts Expect Increased Tick & Lyme Disease Testing to Improve State Awareness & Education
The recent Lyme disease outbreak to hit the United States is no surprise to zoologists and veterinary professionals who have been monitoring ticks, their behavior, and the diseases they transmit for years. But there’s also limited testing data available when it comes to ticks.
Luckily, tick testing is easier now than ever before in Massachusetts, and citizens are able to identify potentially infected ticks and learn more about the diseases they may be spreading, their effects on humans, and more.
With the increased tick activity and spreading of tick-borne illnesses, it is now more important than ever to be able to quickly and efficiently test ticks to know more about the threats they pose on humans and our general well being.
Thanks to the Laboratory of Medical Zoology’s (LMZ) tick-testing service, TickReport, and its data that has accrued over time, zoology professionals can track cases of tick-borne illnesses and their spreading throughout the state of Massachusetts.
And now, with the Center for Disease Control giving a $100,000 grant to the Massachusetts state health department and the University of Massachusetts Amherst to increase the instances of these tick tests, the state will learn a lot more about ticks and the diseases they carry.
“It is extremely welcome to see that tick-borne illness has definitely moved up the CDC’s list of priorities” said Stephen Rich, LMZ director at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Not only will this make TickReport more accessible and affordable, it is also a recognition by the CDC of the value of tick testing as part of a comprehensive approach to tick-borne disease threats.”
Beginning in May 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Health will increase its efforts to combat the outbreak of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses like Powassan virus through the CDC-funded grant. The grant is to be split evenly between testing ticks through TickReport and Powassan-focused research within the state.
Until the grant money runs out — which Rich expects to be around July 2018 — Massachusetts state residents can get the ticks that have latched onto them tested for as little as $15.
About Tick Testing
Current tick testing in Massachusetts is offered in three package options for $50, $100, and $200.
As tick-testing package options increase in price, the depth of the testing increases from just DNA testing of the tick to a comprehensive testing package that includes more rare pathogens. By increasing the volume of tick tests performed, the cost per test lowers drastically and results in a more affordable testing process.
Tick testing has become a priority of CDC through the recognition of the need for it.
LMC has used the tick-testing service TickReport for several years to track tick-related incidents, the spread of Lyme disease, and the introduction of new tick-borne illnesses.
TickReport software allows residents and medical professionals to upload data into an LMZ database that may be accessed to better understand which diseases and pathogens are in which parts of the state. The overall goal of using this software is to encourage more residents in under-represented places in Massachusetts to participate in the limited time offer and log their information.
LMZ, a non-profit organization, plans on using additional funding to generate support for educational materials, a tick hotline, and additional research. LMZ is also working on supporting a free, downloadable smartphone app of TickReport in an attempt to reach residents who are unable to come in for testing due to financial and or transportation reasons.
This grant, and others like it that promote the use of crowd-sourced information, will make TickReport more accessible and affordable to Massachusetts residents, Rich said.