Pennsylvania officials are urging precaution after the discovery of an invasive tick species, one that infests host animals in clusters and may be able to survive our winters.
Tests by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory have confirmed the presence of the Asian, or longhorned tick in Pennsylvania, the state Agriculture Department announced Tuesday.
The tick was discovered on a wild deer in Centre County.
The longhorned tick is known to carry several diseases that infect hogs and cattle in Asia. So far, ticks examined in the U.S. do not carry any infectious diseases, but the USDA says the insects frequently form large infestations that cause great stress on warm-blooded host animals, reducing its growth and production. A severe infestation can kill the animal due to blood loss.
Officials said female longhorned ticks reproduce asexually and a single tick can reproduce and lay 2,000 eggs after feeding on a host. Cattle, pets, small mammals, birds, and humans are all potential hosts.
The longhorned tick is easily confused with other tick species and its distinctive “horns” may not be visible without a microscope.
“Even experts have difficulty distinguishing among tick species, so it is important to take precautions to protect pets, livestock and family members from becoming a host for ticks of any kind,” State Veterinarian Dr. David Wolfgang said. “Scientists don’t yet know how this species will adapt to the North American climate and animal hosts, but we know it survived New Jersey’s winter and has infested sheep and cattle in this region.”
The tick was originally identified in the U.S. in New Jersey, where it was found in large numbers in sheep in Mercer County in 2017. It has also been found in Arkansas, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia and Virginia.
Officials recommend examining animals on a regular basis and checking for ticks after being outside to prevent bites and disease.
Livestock owners should use tick prevention practices on their feedlots and pastures, such as keeping grass and weeds trimmed and clearing away brush.
Regular tick treatments should be effective against the longhorned tick.
“The discovery of the longhorn tick is another reminder of the importance of tick prevention for Pennsylvanians,” Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Ticks can be found in your own backyard, so it is essential to wear long sleeves and pants, use insect repellant containing DEET to help keep you safe from ticks and the diseases they carry. It is also important to check yourself and your pets for ticks, as pets can bring ticks indoors.”