One attraction to a lawn care or landscaping career is the ability to work outside rather than being stuck inside behind a desk all day. But it isn’t all fresh air and sunshine: Working with turf, brush and trees also increases your chances of being bitten by disease-carrying ticks.
Tick season officially takes place between April and October. What used to be considered a regional issue is now a national concern due to the migration of these insects.
Lyme disease is the most known tick-borne disease, but it’s not the only tick-borne pathogen out there. After a tick bite, NJ Labs recommends testing for other tick-borne pathogens including Rickettsiosis, a spotted fever, or Ehrlichiosis, a potential breathing and blood disorder.
“When it comes to finding ticks, people worry most about Lyme disease and as a result, the market focus is on promoting Lyme disease testing. However, other tick species carry different types of tick-borne pathogens that can be just as dangerous to your health,” says Sandra Lee, CEO of NJ Labs whose analytical testing lab offers tick collection testing kits under the name Tick SURE. “Our tick collection testing kit is designed to avoid expensive, in-person lab visits by giving broad-range, quick results at a reduced cost.”
Deer ticks are the only ticks that carry Lyme disease. However, there are many other tick species that can also cause virus-like symptoms including headaches, fever, fatigue, chills and muscle aches. If you’re bitten by a tick, you should make sure that the tick is tested for the most common tick-borne pathogens, in addition to Lyme disease, using a DNA-based method to test with a higher specificity, advises Lee.
Known species of ticks in the United States that bite and transmit diseases in humans include:
- Black-legged tick (deer tick), which transmits Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Powassan disease;
- American dog tick (wood tick), which transmits Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever;
- Lone star tick (turkey tick), which transmits bacteria that cause Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia and STARI;
- Gulf Coast tick, which transmits Rickettsioses;
- Brown dog tick (kennel tick), which transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever;
- Western black-legged tick, which transmits Lyme disease and Anaplasmosis; and the
- Rocky Mountain wood tick, which transmits Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever and Tularemia.
“It’s important to know the bug that bit you,” says Lee. “This old adage is especially true when it comes to tick bites, because when you know the specific species of the bug that bit you, you can test for every tick-borne pathogen known to that species, not just Lyme disease. This way you are covering every possible compromised health issue.”
The Tick SURE tick test and sample collection kit can be purchased in advance. It includes tweezers, directions on how to remove a tick, and packaging for the tick in a pre-paid, first-class envelope that is delivered to NJ Labs for full identification and testing. Once at the lab, the tick’s DNA is extracted to identify the species, then tested for pathogens it may carry.
If you are bitten by a tick, you should also make an appointment with a doctor since symptoms do not always show up right away.
“A positive test just means that we detected the pathogen in the tick, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the disease,” Lee explains. “Regardless of the tick test result, you should always consult your doctor. Walking into a doctor’s office armed with information about your tick will make your appointment that much more productive.”