A dog tick, right, is twice the size of the lyme disease-carrying deer tick seen on the left. In the center is the nymph stage of the deer tick. Credit: Courtesy of Griffin Dill

The University of Maine Extension’s Tick Lab can now test for two diseases that are making their way into Maine through the state’s most detested pest.

Evidence of both the Powassan virus and Heartland virus have been found in Maine as the range of deer ticks continues to expand. In April 2022, a Waldo County resident died after contracting Powassan virus.

Heartland virus is carried by the lone star tick, which is not widespread in Maine. However, in March 2022, antibody data showed that white tail deer in Maine had been exposed to the Heartland virus.

Previously, the state’s tick lab was able to test for Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia.

“We are constantly striving to improve our tick testing service to better serve our clients and help understand the changing dynamics of tick-borne disease in Maine,” Griffin Dill, the UMaine Extension Tick Lab’s coordinator said.

Last year saw some of the highest rates of tick-borne disease in Maine, with at least 1,900 cases of Lyme disease reported as of September 2022. That was up from the approximately 1,500 cases reported throughout all of 2021, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Alongside a rise in Lyme disease infections, the Maine CDC also identified 700 cases of anaplasmosis, 161 cases of babesiosis and four cases of Powassan encephalitis.

Dill encourages anyone who spends time outdoors when it’s above 40 degrees Fahrenheit to wear shirts with long sleeves and pants with long legs tucked into your socks, use tick repellent, and conduct full body checks when you get back inside. Pets should also be checked over.

It will cost $20 per tick sample for anyone that suspects they have been bitten. More information can be found at https://extension.umaine.edu/ticks/, or by contacting 207-581-3880.

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Leela Stockley

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.