Asian Longhorned Tick

There are hundreds of tick species in the world, and about 10 percent of these species are found in the United States.

The Asian long-horned tick — Haemaphysalis longicornis — “is a tick indigenous to Asia, where it is an important vector of human and animal disease agents,” warned a research team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As of June 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that Asian longhorned ticks were first identified in the United States in 2010 and have since been found in 17 states. In South Carolina, a small number of these ticks were identified in 2020 on shelter dogs in Lancaster and Pickens counties. Unlike other ticks, a single female Asian longhorned tick can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time without mating. This means a single animal could host hundreds or thousands of ticks.

While no documented cases of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis have been reported in the United States due to bites from Asian longhorned ticks, the ability of this tick species to spread diseases that can make people and animals ill is a concern. However, more research is needed in the United States to better understand what diseases the Asian longhorned tick can spread and to what degree they are a health risk to people, livestock, and other animals. The ability of this tick species to increase its populations very quickly, leading to large infestations in a short amount of time, is also concerning

Dr. Chris Evans, State Public Health Entomologist with DHEC’s Bureau of Environmental Health Services

Asian longhorned ticks are light brown in color and tiny. Because of their small size and quick movement, they are difficult to detect. These ticks can feed on any animal but are most commonly found on livestock, dogs, and humans.

The establishment of the Asian longhorned tick has real animal and human health concerns. We are asking the public to send us any ticks they encounter in their everyday lives to help us track and monitor its spread. With local help, I believe we can slow the spread of this tick in our state. [South Carolina] Dr. Melissa Nolan, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Arnold School of Public Health and director for the UofSC Laboratory of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases

The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) Animal Health Division has confirmed the presence of the Haemaphysalis longicornis tick (otherwise known as the Asian Longhorned tick) affecting a cow in Pickens County, GA (Sep 30, 2021). This is the first case of the invasive tick identified in Georgia and the investigation is ongoing to determine the extent of the tick’s presence in the area.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) Animal Health Division recommends the following advice to farmers, foresters, and those who frequent areas where ticks are abundant:
  • Wear long pants, with shoes and socks – no flip flops or sandals in these areas.
  • Check yourself carefully after strolling through likely tick habitats and remove any ticks immediately. If possible, have someone else check the back of your neck and other hard-to-see places.
  • Work with your veterinarian and extension agent to discuss an appropriate tick strategy for your flock or herd.
  • Check cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and other free-ranging animals routinely for any kind of ticks and remove them immediately.
  • While there are no approved insecticides for the Longhorned tick in the U.S., many of the commonly used permethrin preparations used in the country today are effective. Livestock producers must observe tissue withdrawal times for all insect prevention or treatment preparations used in or on food animals.
  • If you find a large number of ticks on an individual animal, call your veterinarian and report it to GDAAnimal Health at 404-656-3667.

There are hundreds of tick species in the world, and about 10 percent of these species are found in the United States. We know the Asian longhorned tick can be found anywhere in the environment but may prefer tall grasses and wooded areas. They like to hitch a ride on people, pets, livestock, and wild birds.

These ticks attach to and feed on a great variety of domestic animals and wildlife hosts. In other countries, Asian longhorned ticks are also called bush ticks, cattle ticks, or scrub ticks. They are native to eastern Asia but were introduced into Australia, New Zealand, and the western Pacific Islands.

They are known to carry pathogens, which can cause disease and may also cause distress to the host from their feeding in large numbers. For example, a dairy cow may have a 25% decrease in milk production after becoming a host. In other countries, the Asian longhorned tick can transmit the agent of bovine theileriosis[1] to cattle and babesiosis[2] to several domestic animal species. Although we have not seen it carry these diseases in the United States, they continue to monitor it closely.

The Asian longhorned tick does not discriminate. They will and can use a human or a pet as a host just the same as livestock or wildlife. Tick exposure can occur year-round, but ticks are most active during warmer months. Spending time outside walking your dog, camping, gardening, or hunting puts you at risk of contact with ticks. Many people get ticks in their own yards or neighborhood.

Removal
  • Check your clothes and your body for ticks after coming indoors.
  • Ticks should be removed immediately because they can carry diseases that affect human health.
  • Remove ticks immediately from people or animals.
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers if possible.
  • If tweezers are not an option, shield your fingers with tissue paper, a foil-covered gum wrapper, or a plastic sandwich bag.
  • Grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible, pulling upward with steady, even pressure.
  • Do not twist the tick as you remove it – this may cause the mouthparts to remain in the skin increasing the risk of infection.
  • Do not use hot match heads, or petroleum jelly or try to suffocate the tick during removal.
  • After removing the tick, wash the affected area with soap and water. Then disinfect the bite with a topical antiseptic.
  • Put the tick in a zip-top bag and seal it closed. Give the bagged tick to your veterinarian or doctor for examination.


Footnotes
  1. Tropical theileriosis or Mediterranean theileriosis is a theileriosis of cattle from the Mediterranean and Middle East area, from Morocco to Western parts of India and China. It is a tick-borne disease, caused by Theileria annulata. The vectors are ticks of the genera Hyalomma and Rhipicephalus. The most prominent symptoms are fever and lymph node enlargement. But there is a wide range of clinical manifestations, especially in enzootic areas. Among them, is the Doukkala area of Morocco, where the epidemiology and symptomatology of the disease were minutely studied. The disease was once considered “benign” in the literature, in comparison to East Coast fever. With the introduction of European breeds into the region, however, it could become of major economic incidence. Efficient treatment with parvaquone, then buparvaquone became available in many countries from the mid-1990s. Animals native to endemic areas appear more tolerant to the disease, buffalos especially, appear less susceptible. [Back]
  2. Babesiosis or piroplasmosis is a malaria-like parasitic disease caused by infection with a eukaryotic parasite in the order Piroplasmida, typically a Babesia or Theileria, in the phylum Apicomplexa. Human babesiosis transmission via tick bite is most common in the Northeastern and Midwestern United States and parts of Europe, and sporadic throughout the rest of the world. It occurs in warm weather. People can get infected with Babesia parasites by the bite of an infected tick, by getting a blood transfusion from an infected donor of blood products, or by congenital transmission (an infected mother to her baby). Ticks transmit the human strain of babesiosis, so it often presents with other tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease. After trypanosomes, Babesia is thought to be the second-most common blood parasite of mammals. They can have major adverse effects on the health of domestic animals in areas without severe winters. In cattle, the disease is known as Texas cattle fever or redwater. [Back]

Further Reading

Sources

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
University of Minnesota CIDRAP
South Carolina dhec


Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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