Pennsylvania already has a serious tick problem, consistently claiming a top rank for states with Lyme disease cases – and it just got worse. A new invasive tick species from Asian has arrived in the PA. The Asian long-horned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, is spreading rapidly along the Eastern Seaboard.
It's been 50 years since a new tick species has been identified in the United States. The arrival of the Asian longhorned tick has ended that era.
The Bad News
Two things make this tick especially troubling. First, female Asian ticks reproduce asexually, so a single tick can reproduce and lay 2,000 eggs after feeding on a host. These ticks can completely overwhelm a host, taking so much blood as to take the life of animals. Cattle, pets, small mammals, birds and humans are all potential hosts.
Second, Asian long-horned tick is known to carry Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus (SFTS). SFTS is an illness causing death in up to 15% of patients, higher in the elderly patients.
The Good News
So far, no long-horned ticks found in United States have been carrying human diseases. Experts are currently more worried about the long-horned's effect on livestock. While the long-horned is known to carry a dozen pathogens including Lyme and SFTS, we do not yet know how they will adapt to the United States as carriers of vector borne disease.
“Instead of focusing on the theoretical risk of some exotic imported tick species,” he says, “people should be paying more attention to actually protecting themselves from these much bigger threats.”
Native ticks to Montgomery, Chester, Delaware, Bucks, and Philadelphia counties represent a very real epidemic of disease. Quest Diagnostics has reported Lyme disease rates skyrocketing in recent years. Other conditions spread by different types of native ticks—like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and alpha-gal syndrome (which involves a sudden allergy to red meat)—have also seen increases in recent years.
Steps You Can Take To Protect Yourself
- Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts when outdoors.
- Use insect repellant containing DEET.
- Check yourself and your pets for ticks every evening.
- Reduce populations in your own yard by through proper landscaping.
- Use pesticides to reduce tick populations. Use a licensed, professional company, like FlyFoe, to safely and effectively apply pesticides to your property.