Pennsylvania lab offers free tick testing

Investigations

East Stroudsburg University’s tick research lab is offering free tick testing.

“Pennsylvania makes up 33 percent of the total cases of Lyme disease in the United States, so it’s a really big health crisis in our state and there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to ticks,” said Nicole Chinnici, the laboratory director.

The tick lab is tracking what types of ticks are in the state and where they are being found. 

“Once you have a tick that’s attached to you, you will pull it off and visit our website, www.ticklab.org. You will put in some survey information and get a voucher form you will print off, and then you mail that in with your tick to us a the lab,” said Chinnici. “Within 72 business hours, you will receive your testing results.”

The results will tell you if the tick that bit you was infected.

“The deer tick panel will include Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis as well as Powassan virus, and then the dog ticks will be Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis,” said Chinnici. 

The lab also offers a more extensive panel that can go up to 17 different diseases at a subsidized cost. The test results do not diagnose you with the disease but can tell you what you may have been exposed to.

“There is difficulty with the human testing of [tick borne disease] and symptoms overlap, so it becomes challenging with getting treatment. This can tell you within three days what you have been exposed to. It can guide your physician in understanding your symptoms, which testing to give you, and what treatment to give you,” said Chinnici.

The lab is already sharing results online at www.ticklab.org. An interactive map breaks it down by county. Eventually, they would like to break it down to the township level and even specific parks. A similar project in Massachusetts had positive results.

“They used to be number one in tickborne diseases and Lyme disease back in 2008 when they launched their program. Now, they aren’t even in the top five. So, the program does show to be effective,” said Chinnici.

The university’s tick lab received $500,000 in funding from the state. The goal is to test about 10,000 ticks this year.

The lab also accepts ticks found on animals.

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