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Testing of Ticks

People who have removed a tick often wonder if they should have it tested. Some state or local health departments offer tick identification and testing as a community service or for research purposes (such as evaluating infection rates among ticks in an area). Check with your health department; the phone number is usually found in the government pages of the telephone book or online.

In general, testing of individual ticks is not useful because:

  • If the test shows that the tick contained disease-causing organisms, that does not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
  • If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. You should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.
  • Negative results can lead to false assurance. For example, you may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.

However, you may want to learn to identify various ticks. Different ticks live in different parts of the country and transmit different diseases. For your own peace of mind, you can save a tick that you have removed from yourself and have it tested later, if you wish. Just tape it to a piece of paper or put it in a small container.

 
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