No more waiting for Lyme disease test results; the test can now be done at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital in about 40 minutes compared with a two-day wait.
About two weeks ago the hospital began testing people for Lyme disease using a piece of equipment recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the Biomerieux MiniVIDAS analyzer.
Dr. Lena Prisco, lab director at the hospital, said the instrument detects Lyme antibodies in patient blood samples.
“I felt it was important to be able to provide this service. We’re sitting in the middle of tick heaven . . . the goal here in terms of patient care was to provide the same testing as off-Island for patients who were anxious to get that information quickly,” she said.
Previously blood work was sent to a reference lab in Norwood.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi that comes from infected black-legged deer ticks.
Symptoms can begin to develop anywhere from three to 30 days after a tick bite; these symptoms may include the characteristic red bulls-eye rash, fever, chills, headaches, muscle and joint aches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes.
Ms. Prisco said blood work that tests positive will be sent off-Island for additional higher-level testing.
In the summer the lab conducts about 20 tests a day; on average about two per cent of tests are positive, Ms. Prisco said.
Because of the nature of the disease, a person could be infected with Lyme disease and have a negative blood test. It can take two to three weeks to develop antibodies that can be detected by the analyzer.
Vineyard doctors are also now recommending that people who have been bitten by a tick take two doxycycline pills within 72 hours of the bite.
This preventive method could affect blood test results, Ms. Prisco said.
She said the Lyme disease test is typically covered by most health insurance plans.