Aug 7, 2018

What you need to know about America's newest tick

Close-up Haemaphysalis longicornis on leaves

An engorged longhorned tick. Photo: Aukid Stock photo

A tick species new to the U.S., called the longhorned tick or Haemaphysalis longicornisa. has been found spreading along the East Coast, state and federal officials say.

Why it matters: They have the ability to carry serious diseases — sometimes ones causing death in other countries — but officials say there have been no reports of human infections in the U.S. yet, per the New York Times.

Four things to know about longhorned ticks:

  1. The first one was found in America last summer on a sheep in New Jersey, although how the tick got there remains unknown. Since then, they've been found in at least 7 states along the eastern seaboard: Arkansas, New York, West Virginia, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
  2. In its original home in Asia, the longhorned tick transmits a disease called severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) that kills 15% of its victims, NYT says. But New Zealand and Australia say the ticks don't appear to cause SFTS there — instead, the ticks have transmited babesiosis and theileriosis, which can be damaging for cattle but don't usually harm humans.
  3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention operates a lab in Colorado with 10 live longhorned ticks that they hope to grow to maturity to test for further possible diseases. That will take about a year.
  4. Female longhorned ticks can reproduce asexually. After they feed, they can lay 2,000 eggs, which can swarm an animal, sucking enough blood to cause anemia or death, Business Insider reports. Young longhorned ticks are extremely small, and have been compared to a speck of dust or a poppy seed.

The big picture: Officials say they are keeping a watchful eye on this new species, particularly as it comes amid a concerning growth in other tick populations across the U.S., primarily due to warmer temperatures and a greater mobility of people and animals.

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