Tick Identification and Testing

To combat the threat of tick-borne diseases to residents, the Tick-borne Diseases Program of the Monmouth County Mosquito Control Division provides the service of Tick Identification and Testing as part of an on-going research program. Read the brochure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can use this service?
What will it cost?
How do I remove a tick?
How do I submit a tick?
What information can you tell me about my tick?
Does my tick carry Lyme disease bacteria?
Can I have it tested for something other than Lyme?
Will the results tell me if I have a disease?
When will I receive my results?


Who can use this service?
Only residents of Monmouth County, New Jersey are eligible

What will it cost?
Tick Identification is free, but if you choose to have it tested for the Lyme bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) there is a $25.00 fee to cover lab costs. We can only accept personal checks, NO cash or credit cards. Payment is expected at the time the tick is submitted. Test results will not be delivered without receipt of payment.

How do I remove a tick?
The best way to remove attached ticks is to grasp the tick with fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin as possible; then pull straight up with a slow, steady force. Try to avoid crushing the tick or destroying it in any way. Clean the area of tick attachment with an antiseptic. Attached ticks should not be removed with noxious chemicals or by burning. This may cause injury to the skin and can increase the risk of transmission by causing the tick to regurgitate disease causing organisms into the body. Removed ticks can be saved in any sealed container to be later identified and tested. Do not place ticks in tape! This makes subsequent identification and testing difficult.

How do I submit a tick?
Ticks must be submitted in person at the Monmouth County Mosquito Control Division at 1901 Wayside Rd., Tinton Falls NJ 07724, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. only. You can submit them in any sealed container, such as a small Tupperware or Ziploc bag, and it does not matter if they are alive or dead. You will need to fill out a submission form with your contact information and details (to the best of your knowledge) about where the tick was found and how it was acquired. Ticks will not be processed without a signed submission form. Printed copies of the form are available when you bring in your tick, or if you wish to fill it out ahead of time click here to download a copy.

What information can you tell me about my tick?
The following information is given free of charge:

  • Tick species: Different tick species are known to transmit different disease causing organisms, therefore knowing the species involved may alert you or your physician to watch for symptoms of specific disease(s). Tick development stage & gender: Different genders and stages of a tick (i.e., larva, nymph, adult) may be more or less likely to be infected with and/or transmit a disease-causing organism.
  • Tick engorgement level: Engorgement level (how much blood it has taken in, i.e. whether flat, partially engorged, or fully engorged) is a relative indication of how long the tick was attached and feeding. The longer a tick is attached, the greater the risk that it may transmit a disease organism.  For example, in the case of Lyme disease, at least 24 hours is usually required before the tick can effectively transmit the pathogen. 

Does my tick carry Lyme disease bacteria? 
Only black-legged ticks (“deer ticks”) can transmit the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. If your tick is identified as a black-legged nymph or adult female (the two riskiest stages) you can elect to send it to our lab to be tested for the Lyme disease bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi. The lab will test the tick to determine if DNA from Borrelia burgdorferi is present using a method called real time PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction).  

Can I get it tested for something other than Lyme?
Currently, we are only able to test black-legged ticks for Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease bacterium. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne illness in Monmouth County. However, black-legged ticks can transmit other diseases, as can other species of ticks. Click here for more information about ticks and tick-borne disease. There are many commercial laboratories that test for other tick-borne diseases; unfortunately we cannot provide recommendations for where to send your tick.

Will the results tell me if I have a disease?
Results can provide information that may help you and your doctor in making diagnostic and treatment decisions. HOWEVER, THEY CANNOT TELL YOU WHETHER YOU HAVE A DISEASE. The identification and analysis of a submitted tick does not rule out the possibility that you may have had other undetected tick bites. Symptoms should never be ignored based on these results. If you think you may have contracted a tick-borne disease contact your physician. He or she will be the most qualified to discuss diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne disease.
 
When will I receive my results?
The report (species, development stage/gender, and engorgement level) is typically sent to you 1-2 days after submitting your tick. Tick testing results typically take 7-11 days. However, this can vary based on submission volume and time of year. Please inquire at the time of submission to be sure you have the most up to date information regarding time table.

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