South Carolina public health and animal husbandry officials recently identified a large population of Asian long-horned ticks infesting a pasture at a York County cattle farm. This invasive species of tick is not commonly found in the United States, and bites from these ticks have caused serious illness in people, animals, and livestock in other countries.
In June 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that Asian long-horned 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.
Asian long-horned ticks in South Carolina were identified through the state’s tick surveillance program — a collaborative effort between DHEC, the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, and Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health.
“Although no documented cases of illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis have been reported in the United States due to Asian long-horned tick bites, the ability of this species of tick to spread diseases that can make people and animals sick is a concern,” said Dr. Chris Evans, state public health entomologist with DHEC’s Office of Environmental Health Services. “However, Further research is needed in the United States to better understand what diseases the Asian long-horned tick can spread and how much of a risk they pose to the health of people, livestock, and other animals. increasing its populations very rapidly, leading to large infestations in a short period of time, is also of concern.”
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Unlike other ticks, a single female Asian long-horned tick can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time without mating. This means that a single animal can harbor hundreds or thousands of ticks.
Dr. Michael Neault, SC State Veterinarian and Director of Clemson University’s Poultry and Livestock Health Department, advises pet owners to consult with their veterinarian about using state-approved products. States for other tick species that have been shown to be effective in treating animals with the Asian long-horned tick.
“Pet and livestock owners should discuss with their veterinarians the use of appropriate tick preventative products for their pets,” Neault said. “Livestock owners in particular should be aware that these ticks can carry the Theileria parasite. In Virginia, they have already spread this infection to sheep, and it can also spread to cattle. In other countries, the tick Asian longhorned has spread anaplasmosis among livestock, so producers may want to take preventative measures for their herds.
Asian long-horned ticks are light brown in color and tiny. Due to their small size and quick movements, 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 long-horned tick poses real animal and human health concerns,” said Dr. Melissa Nolan, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health and director of the UofSC Laboratory of Vector- Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. “We are asking the public to send us any ticks they encounter in their daily 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.
A recent $585,000 grant to Dr. Nolan from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will allow South Carolina’s tick surveillance program to expand its efforts. The five-year project will bring together experts from nearly a dozen locations in nine key states to form the CDC Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases – a collective effort that will improve the identification and monitoring of the migration of ticks and hotspots, including invasive species like the Asian long-horned tick.
To help state officials learn more about the prevalence of Asian longhorned ticks in South Carolina, residents are encouraged to carefully submit ticks suspected of being Asian longhorned ticks for confirmatory identification. . This surveillance will help determine the presence, distribution, seasonality, and potential risks of tick-borne diseases.
To participate in the tick surveillance project, carefully collect a tick using gloved hands, tweezers, or other tool and ship the collected ticks, alive or dead, in a puncture-resistant sealable bottle or storage bag. zipper to the Vector and Zoonotic Diseases Laboratory, 921 Assembly Street #417A Columbia, SC 29201. Please include:
• Your name and phone number
• Address of where the tick was collected (if not a civic address, provide directions and distances to nearby road intersections)
• Indicate if the tick was found on a human or an animal and specify the type of animal
State health officials are asking all South Carolina residents to watch out for ticks when spending time outdoors. To help prevent tick bites and possible exposure to tick-borne diseases:
• Use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or 2- undecanone.
• Treat clothing and equipment such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Follow all label directions.
• Wear protective clothing tucked in around the ankles and waist.
• Shower with soap and shampoo shortly after being outdoors.
• Keep weeds and tall grass trimmed and avoid tick-infested areas such as grassy and swampy woodlands when possible.
• Stay in the center of trails when hiking or walking in the woods.
• Check daily for ticks, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the navel, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist and on the hairline.
• Check pets for ticks daily and treat pets for ticks as recommended by a veterinarian.
Clemson University recommends that livestock owners work with their veterinarian and extension worker to develop a comprehensive tick management plan that includes the use of approved tick control products that can be applied to horses and livestock and in following procedures that reduce ticks in pastures.
Importantly, the Asian longhorned tick is unrelated to the Asian longhorned beetle which was identified in South Carolina two years ago and caused a 73 square mile quarantine zone in Charleston counties and Dorchester.
For more information on Asian long-horned ticks, visit Clemson University’s Ticks and Animal Health in South Carolina webpage. To learn more about tick-borne diseases in South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s Tick Identification Program, visit scdhec.gov/ticks.