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Posted on May 10, 2016 at 8:50 PM



It's a program aimed at learning more about the various tick species in our area and how we can better protect ourselves from tick borne illnesses.


The microbiology lab at UMass Amherst has been testing ticks since 2006 and today, we went to campus to see the latest findings within their research.


Lyme disease is commonly the illness associated with tick bites, but microbiology professor Dr. Stephen Rich told us that over the years, their research has driven them to find more answers - thanks to community members like you sending them in the ticks you find in your backyard.


"The beauty of this is it's beneficial to individuals, so someone gets bit by a tick, they send to us, they get info about what they may have been exposed to," Rich explained.


That data can then warn you of the possible risks you face if you were bitten.


"One of the things we are doing is testing for more things in the ticks, so people should know it's no longer just Lyme disease," Rich added.


Everytime you send a tick to their lab, they are tested for five different pathogens. One of those is new to their standard testing procedures and found to be prominent in Massachusetts.


"The population benefits because we have this from thousands of people, and even those who don't test for it, people have to ability to find this research information we make available, so you know when to test your tick, or you can go on and see what other people may have sent in and see what the risks may be for you," Rich said.


With each tick tested comes more answers to fight tick-borne illnesses and understanding as to which ticks pose the highest threats.


"We think that where we are helping in the chronic Lyme disease is out in front, by preventing people from getting sick in the first place," Rich added.


However, money - of course - is always the extra challenging factor.


"Six towns in Franklin County...the towns have actually subsidized part of the tick test, so by getting more ticks, we can reduce the overall cost and then the town picks up half the cost. So in those towns, instead of $50, in those towns its $15, so we can keep our heads above water, pay our staff, and keep the testing going," Rich noted.


Rich currently works with 23 different western towns and hopes to eventually reach the entire state.


"We did 160 ticks the first year and over 6,000 last year and hoping to do 7,000 this year," Rich explained.


The process to send in a tick is pretty simple. Remove it as soon as possible, of course, then secure it in a plastic baggy to send to the lab.


You then can just visit to fill out a small form.


Copyright 2016 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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