A new predator from across the globe may soon find its way to the East End.
A recently discovered tick species native to eastern Asia known as the longhorned tick was found at multiple sites in Westchester County and health officials are urging New Yorkers to be vigilant.
While the tick has transmitted disease to humans in others parts of the world, more research is needed to determine whether this species will do so in the United States, according to a news release last week from the State Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets.
John Rasweiler, a physiologist and member of Suffolk County’s tick advisory committee, expressed concern that the new tick may reach the East End. He predicted the ticks could be transported to the region on birds or domesticated animals.
“Particularly in the summer months, we see a lot of cars with New Jersey license plates on eastern Long Island, and some of these presumably are transporting pets like dogs and cats,” he said. “There appear to be some differences of opinion about the public health risks associated with longhorned ticks. I would be very concerned, however, because there is evidence that these ticks can carry some serious diseases.”
The initial discovery of the ticks in the United States was in New Jersey last summer when they infested a sheep, according to the Journal of Medical Entomology. The article noted that the “species could present a significant threat to human and animal health in the United States.”
The ticks have since been found in other states across the country.
Researchers say the longhorned tick can rapidly clone as the female tick lays up to 2,000 genetically identical eggs, according to an article in the magazine Science News. This tick also represents a threat to the agriculture industry and livestock. Symptoms of tick-borne disease in cattle include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, weakness and labored breathing.
“While we continue to learn more about the longhorned tick, it is evident that this species may possibly cause illness not only in humans, but also in livestock and our pets,” State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball said in a statement. “We encourage farmers to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye out for this tick to protect their animals and stay ahead of any potential problems for the livestock industry in New York State.”
The Department of Agriculture and Markets encourages livestock owners and veterinarians to also be vigilant for unusually heavy tick infestations. Farmers are also advised to continue to work with their veterinarians to check their animals, particularly cattle, sheep and horses, for exposure to ticks and to ensure their parasite control plans are up to date and working.
“Taking steps to protect yourself, your children and pets against ticks is the best way to prevent tick bites and tick-borne diseases,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in the statement. “We will continue to conduct surveillance and research on this new type of tick, but it is encouraging that the same steps that protect against deer ticks are also effective against the longhorned tick.”
The deer ticks most common to the East End are the blacklegged and lone-star ticks. Those can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis and other illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If longhorned ticks are suspected, farmers should consult with their veterinarians and contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Division of Animal Industry at 518-457-3502 or [email protected].