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By Jeanne Siviski

 

A new in-state service that tests ticks for pathogens is now available to Maine residents. The Tick Lab, housed within UMaine’s new Diagnostic and Research Laboratory, tests for the three most common tick-borne pathogens – Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis – that are all carried by the deer tick.  Deer tick populations have spread northward and can be found throughout Maine.


Ticks and tick-borne diseases are a significant public health issue in Maine, said Griffin Dill, pest management specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. Dill said the Tick Lab continues to offer tick species identification, and uses the information to monitor tick populations.

Another species of concern is the lone-star tick. Field sampling near locations where lone-star ticks were found has not revealed established populations, however. Dill speculates that lone-star tick specimens received at the lab likely arrived in the springtime on migratory birds. The ticks bear watching, though. Lone-star is notorious for prompting allergic reactions to red meat and is a vector for several tick-borne illnesses.

Dill emphasized the importance of being vigilant about ticks as temperatures warm up. “They are active anytime the temperatures are above the freezing mark, and are especially active once temperatures reach 40 degrees,” he said. Deer tick nymphs, about the size of a poppyseed, “quest” – seek a host. 

In the southern half of the state, Dill said, “This winter has not provided ticks with a significant layer of insulating snow, and the alternating freeze-thaw patterns with saturating rainfall mixed in could be detrimental to their winter survival.”  It’s possible tick populations may have been limited by winter weather patterns. One can only hope.

The fee for having ticks tested for pathogens at UMaine lab is $15. To submit a tick, or for more information about  tick management outreach, personal protection, and tick-borne disease prevention, click here.
           

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