You’ve found a tick attached to your skin and pulled it off.
Now what do you do with it?
A Tulsa dermatologist recommends you send it off to be tested — both for your peace of mind and for a growing database to help physicians and scientists learn more about Oklahoma’s ticks.
Dr. George Monks, who with his wife, Rachel, created testmytick.com last summer announced via email Friday that the Oklahoma State Medical Association Foundation provided a grant to make the testing free and unlimited for Oklahoma residents from July 1, 2019, through July 1, 2020.
His slogan is “save the ticks! — for testing.”
“We’re really excited about this. This is kind of a new thing and to my knowledge this is the first time a whole state can do this kind of testing,” he said.
People are encouraged to send as many ticks as they want.
“We want a lot of ticks, statewide,” he said. “We want to know what species are biting where and when.”
Normally the test costs $50, but for one year Oklahomans can click a tab on the site, enter a code and send in their tick for testing free of charge. The tick can be mailed in by any person, their doctor or, for pets, a veterinarian.
“The state of Oklahoma is unique in that there are many different tick species that reside in our state,” Monks said. “Each tick species can carry different diseases. Most people know Lyme disease is an East Coast problem, but we do have Lyme disease in our state. Oklahoma has one of the highest incidence rates of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia in the country.”
Health officials have recommended for years that people keep ticks that have been attached to them. The advice is to put the tick in a sealed bag and keep it for at least 30 days, in case symptoms arise.
Monks’ test allows people to send ticks for testing ahead of time, even if they doubt it is carrying a disease.
The results of each tick tested will be emailed to the person who submits it, which may help a doctor know how to treat them if symptoms appear. Symptoms sometimes can take weeks to manifest, he said.
“You don’t need to know what species of tick you have, we’ll make that determination once we receive your tick,” he said.
He added that negative results help the database as much as positive ones and also cautioned that people shouldn’t panic if the tick they have comes back with a positive result.
“Even though you sent it in and it says it has Lyme disease, that doesn’t necessarily mean it gave you Lyme disease,” he said. “We don’t want people to be alarmed, but they should be aware; and if they develop symptoms, they should see their physician.”
The DNA tests applied depend on the species of tick. The lab will photograph the tick, assess its feeding condition and provide test results for the presence of seven major pathogens, according to the email.
The non-personal data of every tick tested will be stored in a database made publicly available through the University of Massachusetts affiliated Laboratory of Medical Zoology, Monks said.
“We are asking all Oklahomans to help us learn more about ticks and tick-borne illness in our state,” he said.
Monks said the goal of the tick testing mail-in program and information site is to “save lives by increased access to professional tick testing for physicians, veterinarians and the public.”
People who collect a tick are instructed to do the following: Save it in a sealable plastic bag, go to testmytick.com and on the top right part of the screen click on the “order tick test tab,” select the “standard DNA panel test,” enter the coupon code “prepaid” and follow the instructions on how to mail in your tick.
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