Invasive new tick spreads around NY

The longhorned tick is new to the United States, having been found in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and more areas, and potentially very dangerous to humans.

Ticks have been a growing menace across the United States, but now, a new tick species has been found around New York City called the longhorned tick, and it could bring even bigger threats. The longhorned tick, scientific name Haemaphysalis longicornis, is spreading along the East Coast, marking the first time a new tick species has popped up in 50 years, The  New York Times  reported. But what is it about the longhorned tick that has public health officials concerned? It’s an Asian tick species that can self-clone, meaning it can reproduce asexually through a process called parthenogenesis. This means that female longhorned ticks can lay hundreds of eggs without mating, thus reproducing into large numbers quickly. The longhorned tick is native to Japan, China and Korea and often found in Australia and New Zealand, as well. But recently, it has been spreading to the states. The tick species first appeared in Hunterdon County, New Jersey in 2017, and this summer, the pest has been identified in more areas of New Jersey and  Westchester County in New York, as well as Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas. The New York State Health Department in July announced that the longhorned tick was found in multiple locations within Westchester County, warning all New Yorkers, and especially farmers, to take more general precautions against ticks, like wearing long pants or long sleeve shirts when in wooded areas, using repellents and checking for ticks often whenever outdoors. “Taking steps to protect yourself, your children and pets against ticks is the best way to prevent tick bites and tickborne diseases,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement. “We will continue to conduct surveillance and research on this new type of tick, but it is encouraging that the same steps that protect against deer ticks are also effective against the longhorned tick.” When the New York State Health Department first announced the arrival of the longhorned tick in New York this summer, experts cautioned that the longhorned tick has transmitted disease to humans in other parts of the world, but that more research is needed to determine whether this can happen in the United States. The longhorned ticks found in New Jersey have not been found to carry pathogens or to bite people so far, according to researchers at the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology in a June 2018 report. However, the researchers note, in the species’ native areas in Asia, the longhorned tick has been known to infect humans with several diseases, some of which are fatal. Most health experts in the U.S. are warning that longhorned ticks may pose a particular threat to livestock and pets. The species is also called the cattle tick or bush tick, because longhorned ticks are often found on animals. When the longhorned tick was first found in western New Jersey, a sheep on a Hunterdon County farm was found covered in them. Earlier this month, Aug. 3, a longhorned tick was found on a white-tailed deer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “While we continue to learn more about the longhorned tick, it is evident that this species may possibly cause illness not only in humans, but also in livestock and our pets,” New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said in a statement. “We encourage farmers to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye out for this tick to protect their animals and stay ahead of any potential problems for the livestock industry in New York State.”

“We will continue to conduct surveillance and research on this new type of tick.” Dr. Howard Zucker, State Health Commissioner