According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the documented spread of the particularly aggressive, potentially disease carrying East Asian or long-horned tick as of June 24 has reached 11 states. They are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia, since first discovered on a sheep in New Jersey in 2017.
The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the first case of the tick in Virginia in May 2018 on an Albemarle County cattle farm, according to a recent Virginia Farm Bureau Federation report. Since first discovered, the tick’s range across the commonwealth now covers 24 counties, mostly in the western part of the state.
Livestock producers and dairy producers alike are on edge about how to deal with the invasive tick species — and they have good reason to be.
Studies conducted on Haemaphysalis longicornis have revealed that the insect is an aggressive biter.
Another major concern is that the females of the species possess the unique ability to produce offspring parthenogenetically, or without a mate. They are also known to produce offspring in large numbers. Females can lay 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time. When the eggs hatch, each offspring will be an identical, asexually produced clone of the female. Reproducing offspring in such high numbers, the ticks would multiply to the point that an animal would become infested by hundreds, even thousands of ticks in a brief period of time. The infestation would be severe enough, especially on younger animals, to drain the host to the point of acute anemia or even death, according to a Nov. 29, 2018 CDC report.
While the tick’s ability to reproduce asexually and high reproductive rates are legitimate reasons for concern for cattle producers, dairy producers also have real reason to worry as well.
Across parts of the tick’s native range such as New Zealand and Australia, a dairy herd’s milk production has diminished up to 25% with infestations of the ticks sucking host animals dry.
Another undetermined factor at the present time is the types of disease threat the tick can carry and transfer to U.S. human populations.
The long-horned tick can carry Borrelia, which is one of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. It is known to carry Rickettettsia japonica, which causes Japanese spotted fever. It can also transmit severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome virus, which can cause a human hemorrhagic fever. The tick can also transmit Heartland and Powassan viruses, the CDC report revealed.
“The full public health and agricultural (risk) of this tick discovery and spread is unknown,” Ben Beard, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases said in a realease.
He further stated, “In other parts of the world, the Asian long-horned tick can transmit many types of pathogens common in the United States. We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people and in the environment, is spreading in the United States.”
According to a CDC report, the first human bitten by a long-horned tick was reported recently. While the 66-yr-old man did not get sick from the bite, investigating teams from CDC New York and New Jersey noted that the tick was discovered in unusual locations, like sunny yards.
Mike Beahm, a member of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation livestock advisory committee, operates a beef cattle farm in Botetourt County, where the long-horned tick has been identified.
“I am aware of this tick issue,” he said in a recent release. “I’ve been reading about the long-horned tick for a couple of years. Our county Extension agent keeps us informed about those things, but I haven’t seen it or talked to anybody who has.”
Beahm noted that, as with any invasive species, it is important to stay out in front of the issue. “It’s a potential problem. The more we can do now to combat it and bring it under control, the better. I encourage farmers to be aware of the issue and be alert.”
The Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends that, “Virginians should be on the lookout for the long-horned tick this season. Livestock producers should notify their local Extension agent or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services if they see any unusual ticks, or if a large number of ticks are found on an individual animal.”
According to reports the tick is small, about one-eighth of an inch long. It is reddish brown in color and carries no distinguishing white markings.
“The tick has been reported in the following Virginia localities: Albemarle, Augusta, Botetourt, Carroll, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Giles, Grayson, Greene, Louisa, Page, Pulaski, Roanoke, Rockbridge, Rockingham, Russell, Scott, Shenandoah, Smyth, Warren and Wythe. It also has been detected in the city of Staunton.
On Monday, July 8, the North Carolina Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services issued a press release urging livestock producers and pet owners to be alert and on the lookout for the aggressive East Asian long-horned tick.
The press release was issued after the deaths of five cows in Surry County, North Carolina, were all confirmed to have been linked to the effects of acute anemia as a result of heavy infestations of the long-horned tick.
According to North Carolina State Veterinarian Doug Meckes, “This is the fourth confirmed case in North Carolina since 2018, and the first case reported this year. Previous cases were found in Polk, Rutherford and Davidson counties.
“The deceased young bull brought to our Northwestern Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab had more than 1,000 ticks on it and the owner had lost four other cattle under the same circumstances.”
The VCE said, “If people are bitten by a tick, remove it with tweezers or wrapping the tick in tissue paper and gently try pulling it out. Ticks can be killed with rubbing alcohol and kept in a small container in case the tick needs to be identified later.”
For more information on the East Asian tick or other species, current warnings, descriptions, geographic distribution and other data, go to cdc.gov/ticks/index.html.