Have you heard of the Asian longhorned tick? Well, you have now, and, unfortunately, you might be hearing a whole lot more about them in the spring, as the CDC just released a report last week announcing their spread.
The little buggers have never before been found in the Western Hemisphere and in fact are the first invasive tick species to arrive in the US in more than 80 years. But they are here now, and they are capable of reproducing and spreading with shocking speed. Typically found on livestock, but home anywhere ticks can live, they seem to swarm their hosts. Cows in Asia have been killed by the ticks simply because the little beasts drained the big mammals of their blood.
Female ticks of the species, called Haemaphysalis longicornis, can lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time even without mating. Frequently, when animals are brought to vets to deal with the ticks, they are practically crawling with the pests. “Hundreds to thousands of ticks” are often found on people or animals when they’ve come into contact with the Asian longhorn.
A case of a tick-infested pet Icelandic sheep in New Jersey last year was the first time anyone had observed the Asian longhorned tick in the US. But within a few short months, they’ve been found in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
“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,” said Ben Beard, Ph.D., deputy director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases.
Like any other tick, these carry disease. It’s unknown, as of now, whether any of them have spread any illnesses yet, but with the sheer amount of them once they reproduce in an area, it seems inevitable that they will. Hemorrhagic fever and Powassan virus are two of the worst diseases these ticks can likely transmit, both of which can be deadly. In Asia, where the ticks are widespread, the diseases they carry kill 15 percent of the people they infect.
Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and alpha-gal syndrome—the strange affliction that causes a sudden allergy to red meat—are all tick-borne and on the rise in the US in recent years, a fact that’s alarming to disease-studying researchers. The CDC is unaware as of yet whether or not the Asian longhorn can carry Lyme disease.
Though it’s nearing winter, it’s important to rememember some ticks can still attach to humans if the temperature is above freezing. Most ticks are dormant once it freezes.
The CDC’s report outlined the best way to prevent tick bites in their report, and it’s good advice, so we’re including it here.
• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions.
• Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing, and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
• Check your body and clothing for ticks upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Place tick-infested clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
• Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good time to do a tick check.
• Talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area and prevention products for your dog.