The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns of potential health hazards as a result of the ongoing spread of the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis).

Since its first discovery in the United States in 2017, it has since spread in states such as North Carolina, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Multistate Tick Infestation

In its recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the CDC warned the public regarding the potential health hazards that may arise as a result of the ongoing multistate infestation of the Asian longhorned tick.

Since the species was first observed in a sheep in New Jersey in 2017, it has since been detected in various animal species, both domestic and wild, and in two humans. Before then, it was intercepted on at least 15 occasions on imported animals and materials.

States so far affected by the infestation are Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, Maryland, and Connecticut. It is believed to likely be established in the United States and is now considered an invasive pest.

Public Health Concerns

As a result of the infestation, the agency now warns that its presence in the United States may represent emerging diseases as well as new threats to public health. In China and Japan, the Asian longhorned tick transmits severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV), which causes hemorrhagic fever, as well as Rickettsia japonica, which causes Japanese spotted fever.

Furthermore, in some regions of Australia and New Zealand where the tick was introduced and has since been established, its presence can decrease dairy cattle production by 25 percent. The species is a potential vector for animal and human diseases such as Rickettsia, Borrelia, Ehrlichia, and other viral agents, but the specific potential impacts of the presence of H. longicornis in the United States is still unknown.

As such, authorities are conducting vector and animal surveillance efforts, which has so far resulted in 53 reports.

“The recently documented occurrence of H. longicornis in the United States presents an opportunity for collaboration among governmental, agricultural, public health agencies and partners in academic public health, veterinary sciences, and agricultural sciences to prevent diseases of potential national importance before onset in humans and other animal species,” the agency notes.

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