Thanks to a mild winter and a booming mice population, 2017 is expected to be the worst season for ticks in years, according to the CDC.
That means incidents of Lyme and other tick born illnesses are also expected to rise.
The town of East Longmeadow is hoping a new program will help identify the tick problem better and help residents diagnose any tick born illnesses earlier.
East Longmeadow is one of the first towns in western Massachusetts to partner with UMass Amherst and it's laboratory of medical zoology.
One of the first such labs in the country, each season, hundreds of ticks are sent to UMass from all 50 states - each one is analyzed for Lyme and other diseases.
"The great thing about this program is that you can send old ticks, frozen ticks, ticks that were in alcohol, ticks that you remove or have been sitting around, half a tick, a leg of a tick. They will test anything," said Aimee Petrosky, East Longmeadow's health director.
Within three days, sometimes 24 hours, results are emailed back. The cost is $50, but through the new partnership, East Longmeadow is subsidizing the tests, so town residents now only pay $5.
"Most people know someone who's life has been changed through Lyme disease - some in a minor way, some lifelong - so this is a really great opportunity for our resident to be proactive. The blood work for Lyme disease doesn't often times show anything for about two weeks out. This will allow our resident to know really quickly if they should start the treatment," Petrosky noted.
Petrosky told Western Mass News that it also allows the town to track the local tick population.
"So if there are areas that we find six people found ticks and all six have Lyme disease, we can then reach out to our residents and say this is a particularly troubling area, these are ways you can protect yourself," Petrosky explained.
So far, 11 ticks have been sent in with no Lyme detected, but one did test positive for anaplasma, a lesser-known, but also significant, tick-borne disease.
Petrosky hopes to get the word out so that more residents use the new program.
"This is a particularly bad tick season, so this program during this year is really excellent." Petrosky said.
For more information on how to send your ticks to the UMass Amherst lab, you can CLICK HERE.
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