For the first time in 50 years, a new species of tick has been identified in the United States, announced Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.
The Asian longhorned ticks — officially known as haemaphysalis longicornus — were discovered in New Jersey and now have spread into seven neighboring states.
Poland said the longhorned tick is prolific and can lay as many as 2,000 eggs at a time. He said it is known to be an aggressive biter, causing great stress to its host.
“In Asia, it causes a devastating disease called SFTS — severe fever and thrombocytopenia syndrome,” he said. “About 15% of those people have died.”
So far, the tick has been primarily affecting livestock in this country, “but epidemiologists are watching closely” for signs of infected people, he said.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the longhorned tick has been found in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease have doubled over the past 13 years. Lyme disease is the most common, accounting for approximately 82% of all tick-borne cases.