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New Super Aggressive Tick Species Spreads Across The US

Aug 08, 2018 01:05 AM EDT
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There's a new tick species sweeping across the United States that's known to kill a significant chunk of its victims in Asia.

The Asian long-horned tick has been busy in the past year, rapidly making its way from state to state.

It's now confirmed to be in seven different states: New Jersey, New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, according to Live Science.

Public health officials are still investigating how the long-horned tick arrived at the United States, but some suggest that it could have hitched a ride on pets, livestock, horses, or even people entering the country.

Ultra-Aggressive Ticks Wreak Havoc In The US

The introduction of the long-horned ticks are alarming due to its particularly aggressive nature. So far, they have been found on horses, deer, dogs, a calf, an opossum, and a sheep.

The United States Department of Agriculture says that officials are particularly concerned over the new ticks' impact on livestock as very large infestations often form on warm-blooded animals. It can lead to great stress, which in turn causes a reduction in growth and production. More severe infestations can even kill animals from blood loss.

In a New York Times report, entomologist Tadhgh Rainey recalls how a woman came into his department in New Jersey after shearing her Icelandic sheep and catching ticks from the animal.

"I thought she'd have a few," Rainey says. "But she was covered in them, easily over 1,000 on her pants alone."

A month later, he visited the woman's sheep to see the ticks with his own eyes. Just a minute after entering the paddock and even before touching the infected sheep, Rainey says that he's already covered in the long-horned ticks.

The ease with which the species is spreading is due in part to their reproduction technique. Female long-horned ticks can reproduce asexually — and they can spawn 2,000 eggs at a time. This massive number is enough to establish a population in a brand-new location.

Danger On Human Lives Still Uncertain

While the danger to animals is apparent, the danger to humans is much more difficult to pinpoint. So far, none of the long-horned ticks observed in the United States have been found to carry human diseases.

Some of the viruses that have been screened negative in the new ticks are Powassan, Heartland, and Bourbon. The tick has also been found free of Lyme disease, relapsing fever, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, and two varieties of ehrlichiosis.

The Species' Deadly Threats In Asia

In East Asia, long-horned ticks can be very lethal. One of the biggest tick-related threats to humans is the phlebovirus that causes severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome.

SFTS has a 15 percent overall fatality rate, entomologist Terry A. Klein tells New York Times. Even more alarmingly, it kills about half of infected people who are 60 years old and above.

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