UMaine Extension Tick Lab adds Powassan virus and Heartland virus to tick testing service

Editor’s note: Story updated April 18, 2023.

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab is adding two new pathogens to its tick testing panels.

The Tick Lab will now be screening ticks for Powassan virus and Heartland virus in addition to testing for the pathogens that cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis and tularemia.

Powassan virus is a rare but serious pathogen that can be transmitted by infected deer ticks, woodchuck ticks or squirrel ticks; Heartland virus has been linked to the bite of a lone star tick. Powassan virus can cause severe neurological symptoms and is a potentially fatal illness. 

“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,” says Griffin Dill, UMaine Extension Tick Lab coordinator. “The addition of Powassan virus and Heartland virus to our testing panel underscores our commitment to providing comprehensive and reliable tick testing solutions for the people of Maine.”

Dill also notes that while cases of Powassan virus have been reported in Maine dating back more than 20 years, Heartland virus has only been found in certain Maine wildlife species.

To reflect the increased scope of the tick testing service, the price will change from $15 to $20 per tick sample.

The Legislature’s Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee recently unanimously recommended additional funding to support the growing demand on UMaine’s Tick Lab and maintain affordable access to testing for Mainers. If the state appropriations is ultimately approved, the university plans to return the testing fee per sample to $15, well below what other public university labs in the Northeast currently charge.

More information on ticks in Maine and submitting tick samples to the lab is available on the tick laboratory website, or by contacting 207.581.3880, 800.287.0279 (in Maine);