A new tick species has arrived for the first time in 50 years in the United States. It is the one that carries terrifying diseases in its Asian home range.
Haemaphysalis longicornis, the long-horned Asian tick is rapidly spreading along the Eastern Seaboard. Lately, it has been found in the densely populated outskirts of New York City and in other seven states.
Public health experts say that they are concerned at the moment, but not alarmed. At present, the new breed are being considered a greater menace to livestock.
The domestic American ticks transmit a dozen pathogens and are a growing threat. However, no long-horned ticks have been found yet in any human diseases. The species in Asia carries a virus that kills 15 per cent of its victims.
The first long-horned tick was sighted last summer in western New Jersey. They were found in a golf course and public parks in Essex, Bergen and Middlesex counties in New Jersey, and in grassy and wooded areas in Westchester County of New York, this summer.
Last week, they were reported for the first time in Pennsylvania. Besides, they have been discovered in Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas and North Carolina.
The long-horned ticks were commonly found feeding on dogs, horses, deer, a sheep, a calf and an opossum. These ticks do bite humans, however it is not clear how often.
Experts said that people should take same precautions which are taken against domestic ticks. These may include checking for ticks after walking through woods or tall grass, using repellents, and others.
An entomologist at Rutgers University, Andrea Egizi has identified the longhorns by DNA analysis. Her lab has tested over 100 specimens found in New Jersey and New York.
Dr. Egizi said that so far none have any of the pathogens causing the six diseases she screens for– Relapsing fever, Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and two varieties of erlichiosis.
Around 100 long-horned ticks have been screened at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Fort Collins, Colorado, for three dangerous viruses — Bourbon, Heartland and Powassan. Ben Beard, the deputy director of vector-borne diseases at the agency, reported that the tests came up negative.
It is not yet discovered that when or how the long-horned ticks reached the United States. Besides, the reason why the species are spreading at a faster rate is also not identified.
Dr. Beard said, “The jury’s still out on how big a threat this is, but we think it’s a very important question to address.”