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Invasive New Tick Spreading in NJ

Release date: 9/11/2018

Longhorned tick merits precautions for when outdoors

A new invasive tick from eastern Asia, New Zealand, and Australia has recently established itself in New Jersey and all residents should take appropriate outdoor precautions.   The longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), also known as the bush tick or cattle tick, was first found in New Jersey, in Hunterdon County in November of 2017 on a sheep farm.  It has since migrated to several states.  Efforts to contain it in New Jersey have apparently failed as the tick successfully overwintered and become established in the state as an invasive species. 

About

Like deer ticks, the nymphs of the longhorned tick are tiny (resembling little spiders) and can easily go unnoticed on animals and people.  It is dark-brown and grows to the size of a pea when fully engorged, according to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. This species can carry several bacterial and viral diseases and has been associated with spotted fever rickettsioses. 

The tick lives on mammals and birds and spreads quickly in farm animals such as cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, and chicken. Natural infestations have been found on wild animals like bear, deer, foxes, hares, and small mammals like rats, ferrets, and birds, the latter hosting the ticks. The tick has been found on cats, dogs, and humans. If too many ticks attach to one animal, the loss of blood can kill the animal.

Disease Carriers

The longhorned tick is self-cloning and is already known to transmit several human diseases, including spotted fever rickettsiosis, in its native East Asian countries.   It is known to infest a wide range of species including humans, dogs, cats, and livestock.  The tick has been associated with the transmission of Theileria, a cause of disease in animals called theileriosis, which leads to anemia and sometimes death.  It has also been associated with Russian spring-summer encephalitisPowassan virus, Khasan virus, tick-borne encephalitis virus and severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome.  

Although specimens identified in New Jersey have not been found to carry pathogens, it may be only a matter of time before they become carriers of tick-borne diseases that affect humans.

Prevention

“We want to emphasize that it is important that people continue to use normal tick prevention measures for themselves, their pets and livestock,” said Dr. Manoel Tamassia, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian. “We will work to continue to develop strategies to control the spread of the tick to other areas.”

Prevention Measures

  • Use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin.
  • Check yourself, your children and your pets daily for ticks and as soon as you come inside.
  • How to remove a tick
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.
  • At home:
    • Keep weeds and underbrush clear and shrubs trimmed.
    • Mow your lawn as often as necessary to keep the grass from growing too tall.
  • On the trail: hikers and hunters:
    • Wear light colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • Tuck your pant legs into your socks.
    • Walk in the center of trails.
    • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
    • Examine clothing and gear before you bring it inside.  Ticks have been known to hitch a ride.
    • For bow hunters, application of permethrin to clothing before going hunting is a good way to prevent tick bites and any diseases associated with ticks. 
    • Wear gloves when dressing or butchering game and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.  Animals can carry diseases like brucellosis, tularemia, and rabies. People can become exposed while handling infected animal tissue.

If you develop a fever or rash, see your doctor immediately.  Prevention of tick bites is the key message here. 

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