Asian longhorned tick invasion tracked by DHEC, asking public for assistance

The Asian longhorned tick can be hard to spot.
The Asian longhorned tick can be hard to spot.(CDC)
Published: Jul. 8, 2022 at 8:54 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -A rare invasive tick species is being tracked by the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).

The department is asking the public for help in tracking the invasion after a large population of Asian longhorned ticks was found infesting a cattle farm in York County.

The USDA says the ticks were first sighted in the United States in 2010. They have been found in 17 states including SC. The ticks were previously found in 2020 on shelter dogs in Lancaster and Pickens counties.

The ticks are not commonly found in the United States but their bites have caused illness in people, animals and livestock in other countries. The Asian longhorned Tick is being tracked through the SC tick surveillance program.

The program is a cooperative effort between DHEC, the University of South Carolina School of Public Health and Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health. Dr. Chris Evans ,State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services said,

While no documented cases of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis have been reported in the United States due to bites from Asian longhorned ticks, the ability of this tick species to spread diseases that can make people and animals ill is a concern.”

Evans explained more research is needed to understand how the ticks spread and what risks they pose in the United States. A single female can produce up to 2,000 eggs without mating, meaning a single one can potentially create thousands.

The small, brown tick is difficult to spot. Combined with their speed the insects can be hard to detect. They are most commonly found on livestock animals but can feed on dogs and humans.

Dr. Michael Neault, South Carolina State Veterinarian and Director of Clemson University’s Livestock Poultry Health Department advised animal owners to speak with their veterinarian about potential treatments if they suspect their pet has been infected.

Neault said, “Livestock owners especially should be aware that these ticks can carry the parasite Theileria. In Virginia, they already have spread this infection in sheep, and it also may spread to cattle. In other countries, the Asian longhorned tick has spread anaplasmosis among livestock, so producers may want to take preventative measures for their herds.”

The CDC awarded a $585,000 grant to the SC tick surveillance program and Dr. Melissa Nolan. Nolan is the assistant professor of epidemiology in the Arnold School of Public Health and director for the UofSC Laboratory of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases.

Nolan said, “We are asking the public to send us any ticks they encounter in their everyday lives to help us track and monitor its spread. With local help, I believe we can slow the spread of this tick in our state.”

Residents can submit the suspected Asian Longhorned ticks to a laboratory to determine the species and if it is carrying any diseases. To participate, collect a tick safely using tweezers or gloves, dead or alive in a puncture resistant sealable container or bag.

It can then be sent to:

Laboratory of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 921 Assembly Street #417A Columbia, SC 29201

Researchers are asking for these when submitting a tick:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Address of where the tick was collected (if not a street address, provide directions and distances from nearby road intersections)
  • Date of collection
  • Indicate if the tick was found on a human or animal and specify the type of animal

More information about the ticks and the potential diseases they might carry can be found at the link here.

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