During the summer of 2018, a New York man sustained a bite from a tick. This may not sound unusual, as ticks are abundant in the northeast states, and people sustain bites often in the region. More than 30,000 people per year contract lyme disease from tick bites, and most of these bite victims live in the northeast. However, the tick that bit the New York man was not just any tick, it was an invasive tick known as the Asian longhorned tick. This tick species is believed to be native to China, Japan and southern Russia where it infects people with an array of diseases, including a particularly deadly strain of hemorrhagic fever. There is much that American researchers do not know about this tick, and how it will affect public health in the country. At the moment, it is unknown what diseases the Asian longhorned tick may spread in the US, researchers cannot figure out how specimens traveled into the US, and most importantly, researchers are not sure why, unlike other ticks, the Asian longhorned tick is able to thrive and proliferate in large numbers on well groomed grassy lawns.
In August of 2017, a woman in northwest New Jersey found ticks covering her sheep, and when she reported the problem in person, authorities noticed that her clothes were covered in exotic tick larvae. Insecticides were used to kill the ticks on the woman’s sheep, and the following winter wiped out all other ticks on her farm. Samples of the ticks were taken and examined by professionals at Rutgers, but it was not until recently that the ticks were identified as Asian longhorned ticks. Investigators are now considered, as there is no way to tell how long the ticks proliferated on the woman’s farm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that the Asian longhorned tick has spread to 11 states, mostly in the northeast. These ticks were recently found infesting a lawn surrounding a man’s house, which has baffled scientists, as the ticks were found in areas of short grass and abundant sunshine. This is unlike any other tick species known in the US, as researchers in the country only know ticks to infest areas of long grass that do not receive much sunlight. Beyond the Asian longhorned tick’s preference for normal well groomed lawns and sunshine, virtually nothing is known about the invasive species.
Do you think that the Asian longhorned tick may spread to every state in the contiguous US?