Tick, tick, tick. It was only a matter of time before this tick would spread from New Jersey to other states.
Just 7 months ago, I wrote for Forbes about how the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) had made its first real appearance in America in 2017 in the Garden State. On August 1, 2017, a sheep farmer visited the Hunterdon County Health Office along with some new companions. Not just some, but thousands of Asian longhorned ticks covering her body. That’s when state officials went “oh, sheep,” and realized that this was a new invader. Somehow this tick species had made its way from its usual habitat, which is parts of East Asia (Russia, Japan, China, and Korea), New Zealand, parts of Australia, and several Pacific islands (New Caledonia, Fiji, Western Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu) to the U.S. State officials then spent the rest of 2017 trying to get rid of this new pest. After all, this tick species sucks and may carry disease-causing pathogens, making it a potentially serious threat to livestock and humans.
However, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now reporting, this tick soon found the exits to New Jersey and proceeded to other states. Now this tick has reached at least 45 different counties (or county equivalents) in 9 different states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.
This isn’t too surprising because unlike most other tick species, the females of this tick don’t need sex to reproduce. Yep, getting these tick eggs laid doesn’t require getting you-know-what. A female Haemaphysalis longicornis can just lay up to to 2,000 eggs at a time without any tick sexy time. Therefore, one tick can soon turn into thousands of ticks, which is just wonderful.
While the thought of thousands of ticks crawling on your body is in itself enough to make a grown man cry, in the words of the Rolling Stones, there are other more serious implications. These ticks have the potential of carrying a number of disease-causing microbes such as various species of Anaplasma, Babesia, Borrelia, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia as well as 3 nasty viruses that could potentially kill you, the thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), the Heartland virus, and the Powassan virus, which I wrote about previously for Forbes. So far, there haven’t been any cases of this tick species transmitting disease-causing microbes in the U.S. but tick, tick, tick.
Unfortunately, now that the proverbial horse has left the proverbial barn with the Asian longhorned tick being outside of New Jersey, controlling this tick has become a whole lot more difficult. A network of experts has formed to find ways to track, monitor, and control these ticks, described in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene as the “first invasive tick to emerge in the United States in approximately 80 years.” But will the resources be available to really keep this tick population from growing like many other tick populations in North America? Unless more is done to control expanding tick populations, things could really suck in the near future.