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Rising tick numbers in New York spurs caution on testing and treatment

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  • Staff Report 

Health officials are cautioning New Yorkers as a potential record number of ticks invades the region this season, advising against using tick testing as a basis for medical decisions. Despite available services for testing ticks for diseases like Lyme, which might be on a historical rise, results should not dictate treatment. Experts note that a positive test does not confirm transmission of disease, and a negative result might offer false reassurance, as ticks carrying diseases could remain undetected.

Ticks, often pulled from deer and ranging in size, are a focus of various studies aimed at better understanding tick-borne diseases. Early data this year hints at potentially severe impacts from these illnesses. Testing services range from $40 to over $100 and are provided by several commercial labs, though their reliability and quality control standards vary from those of clinical diagnostic labs.

Public health guidelines emphasize safe removal techniques over testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using fine-tipped tweezers to avoid leaving tick parts in the skin. After removal, disinfecting the area and disposing of the tick securely are crucial steps to prevent further health risks. The CDC also debunks old wives’ tales about tick removal, such as burning or smothering ticks, advocating for prompt and safe handling instead.