(Reuters Health) - - The Asian longhorned tick has spread across nine states since it first appeared in the U.S. last year, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
New Jersey was the first state to report the tick, found on a sheep in August 2017, the study team writes in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Since then, 45 counties or county equivalents in New Jersey and eight other states - Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia - have reported finding the tick on a variety of hosts, including people, wildlife, domestic animals and in environmental samples.
In contrast to most tick species, a single female Asian longhorned tick can reproduce without mating. Females can make up to 2,000 eggs, according to the CDC. As a result, hundreds to thousands of ticks can be found on a single animal, person or in the environment.
“We expect that, over time, this tick will be reported in new areas,” said lead study author Ben Beard, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.
“It is not clear how the tick has spread, but finding it on numerous species of both wild and domestic animals suggests that it can be carried on these animals to new locations,” Beard said by email.
The Asian longhorned tick has not been found to be infected with any diseases in the U.S. In other parts of the world, however, it can spread viruses, bacteria and parasites known to infect people and animals, causing severe disease and death, Beard said.
Several of these pathogens are already found in the U.S., including Anaplasma (which causes anaplasmosis), Babesia (babesiosis), Borrelia (Lyme disease), Ehrlichia (ehrlichiosis), and Rickettsia (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), Beard added.
The Asian longhorned tick has already been found in several states that have problems with Lyme disease carried by ticks, Beard said.
In other parts of the world where the Asian longhorned tick is common, it is a serious threat to livestock, according to the CDC. In some regions of New Zealand and Australia, for example, this tick can reduce production in dairy cattle by 25 percent.
More information about Asian longhorned ticks is available on the CDC website (bit.ly/2Pg2ec6).
Livestock producers and pet owners should work with their veterinarians to maintain regular tick prevention and report any unknown tick species to their local department of agriculture, the CDC advises.
“At this time there is no evidence that the Asian longhorned tick can transmit Lyme disease,” said Dr. Bobbi Pritt, medical director of the Clinical Parasitology laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“However, a bacterium that is related to the Lyme disease-causing bacterium has been found in these ticks in Asia, so it is hypothetically possible,” Pritt, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Therefore, it is always important to take steps to avoid ticks when outdoors.”
For a tick bite to spread a germ to a person or animal, the tick must be infected and live long enough for the germ to multiply and for the tick to bite a person or animal and spread the infection.
Insect repellents containing ingredients like DEET, picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus may help prevent tick bites in humans. Humans get the most protection by treating clothing and gear as well as exposed skin.
People should also check their body and clothing for ticks, and inspect any pets for ticks, after returning from potentially tick-infested areas, including backyards, the CDC recommends. Showering right away may help reduce the risk of tickborne diseases, and putting clothes in the dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes can also kill ticks on clothing.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2RBQfrz Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, online November 30, 2018.