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Pennsylvania

New invasive tick species, the longhorn, confirmed in Pennsylvania

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, July 31, 2018, 1:06 p.m.
Haemaphysalis longicornis, better known as the Asian longhorn tick: It is an invasive species recently discovered on a Centre County deer in Pennsylvania.
New Zealand BioSecure
Haemaphysalis longicornis, better known as the Asian longhorn tick: It is an invasive species recently discovered on a Centre County deer in Pennsylvania.

The already serious tick problem in Pennsylvania, which consistently ranks among the top states for Lyme disease cases, just got worse.

Testing by National Veterinary Services officials in Iowa has confirmed the presence of the Asian longhorned tick in the Keystone State.

An invasive species that congregates in large numbers and can cause anemia in livestock, the tick was discovered on a wild deer in Centre County. It is known to carry several diseases that infect hogs and cattle in Asia. So far, ticks examined in the United States do not carry any infectious pathogens.

Easily confused with other tick species, including the rabbit tick, which is common in the eastern United States, the species’ 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 David Wolfgang urged. “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 Asian tick infests host animals in dense clusters of numerous ticks. Female Asian ticks reproduce asexually, so 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.

Native to east and central Asia, the tick was originally identified in the United States in New Jersey, where it was found in large numbers of sheep in 2017.

This week, the first longhorned tick was discovered in North Carolina — on an opossum, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It also has been found in Arkansas, New York, Virginia and West Virginia.

“The discovery of the longhorned tick is another reminder of the importance of tick prevention for Pennsylvanians,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health.

“Ticks can be found in your own backyard, so it is essential to wear long sleeves and pants, use insect repellent 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.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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