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Frequently Asked Questions

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. Visit TickEncounter.org to learn about ways to protect yourself. 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.

Our Standard DNA package 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.

View our menu of tests.

Some towns/counties pay part of TickReport fee and so the cost to you will be reduced when you order your TickReport. To find out if you town/county is one of our testing partners, click the “Test a Tick” button on TickReport.com. You'll be asked to provide your name, address and email. We use this information to determine whether you reside in a town with a subsidy program. There is no obligation to complete the order and we never use your contact information for anything other than your TickReport. If you prefer, you can always contact us and we'll look up your eligibility. If you are in a subsidized town/county, be sure to let your local health agencies know that you value this service that they provide with their limited resources.

The Laboratory of Medical Zoology is a not-for-profit, service lab at the University of Massachusetts. If it were possible, we’d provide the service at no cost, but the reality is that we must recover costs for personnel, equipment and supplies by offering the service for a fee. In some cases, state, local or private agencies pre-pay for testing and allow residents to use these pre-paid credits to test their ticks. A core mission of the Laboratory of Medical Zoology is to make this valuable public service available to the greatest number of people at the very lowest cost possible.

To learn more about ticks and tick-borne disease, please visit our partners at the University of Rhode Island’s TickEncounter.org. Local and state health agencies as well as the CDC also provide online information about ticks and how to protect yourself. Massachusetts residents may find the Mass DPH website particularly useful. Its important to always remember that your healthcare provider is the only person that can give you medical advice or prescribe treatment and TickReport should never be misinterpreted as a substitute for medical diagnosis.

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.

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 we’re 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.

To learn more about the public database, see our recent publication in Zoonotic and Vector-borne Diseases reporting the first six years of this program (2006-2012). We’ve tested over 20,000 ticks to date and each of these tick encounters is a valuable data point toward understanding tick-borne diseases.

We are not aware of any insurance that covers costs of a tick test. TickReport tests assess risk of exposure, and should not be interpreted as medical diagnosis. We commonly compare a tick test to testing your home for dangerous exposures such as radon or keeping a carbon monoxide alarm in your home. Like those examples, our tests are not intended to diagnose disease but to measure risks and provide you accurate information to make informed decisions.

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 to let other people learn more about risks.

TickReport - Laboratory of Medical Zoology (LMZ)
101 Fernald Hall, University of Massachusetts
270 Stockbridge Rd, Amherst, MA 01003

You can drop your tick off in person, but we ask that you place an order online beforehand. You can also send it through the mail if that is more convenient for you. Our office is open M-F, 10AM-4PM (ET) with exception of state and federal holidays.

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

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.

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.

No, we test ticks from all life stages, big and small.

Yes, your tick will still be testable. Certain substances that damage nucleic acid may affect results, such as bleach, formaldehyde, formalin, etc., but these are not common.

No, we do not send out tick kits. Please see “how should I send my tick?” for instructions on sending in a specimen.

Place the tick inside a sealed package (preferably zipper lock bag) with a small, damp (not soaking) piece of paper towel. Then place the zipper lock bag in an envelope of your choice (we recommend a bubble envelope if you have one on hand). There is no need to add any alcohol or preservative, but if you already have done so, don’t worry. Clearly label the bag and envelope with your name and five-digit TickReportTM order number.

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.

We guarantee 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.

Every tick we receive is treated with utmost care. We recognize that every tick is a priority for the individual who sent it. Ticks are tested in the order received. We perform tests as quickly as possible without sacrificing the quality of the results.

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.

Unfortunately, we cannot identify all non-tick samples. You may wish to send a photo of your non-tick specimen to the folks at identifyUs.com.

You will start by placing a separate order (with a separate payment) for each tick. Please place the ticks 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.

"Partially fed" means that the tick had been feeding, but was not yet fully engorged. We can tell that a tick is partially fed because the shape of the tick’s body changes gradually as it feeds and often the tick’s mouthparts are missing because it was attached when it was removed from the host.

Determining the precise time of feeding is next to impossible. We encourage clients to go to our partner site (TickEncounter), and compare the tick growth chart photos with their tick to make a more concise estimation of their tick's feeding time.

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

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.

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

  • 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. We recommend the TickEase tick removal tool. Consider having your tick checked for the presence of disease-causing agents.

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.

You may upgrade your order at any time by visiting your private TickReport link, which is emailed to you after you complete your order.

Please note that if you upgrade after we have received your tick, additional fees will apply

We accept all major credit cards or a personal check.

If you choose to pay by check, please be sure to write your order number on the check and send it along with the tick