Health officials are warning of a new species of tick that's spreading rapidly through Maryland and Virginia.
Generations have been taught how to look out for ticks. But for the first time in 50 years, a new species of tick has spread into the Mid-Atlantic region, and it is starting to seriously worry health and wildlife officials.
Nothing can ruin a day outdoors or in the woods more than a tick. As if having a bloodsucking insect attached to your body isn't bad enough, these insects are known to carry deadly diseases like Lyme's Disease. The only consolation is that once a tick has finished feeding, it will usually detach and go on its merry way.
But the new species of tick discovered on the Eastern Seaboard doesn't just eat its fill. The long-horned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, is so gluttonous that it will actually drink itself to death. In Asia, hundreds of these insects have even been known to exsanguinate (drain all blood out of) wildlife and livestock. Female long-horned ticks reproduce asexually and can lay up to 2,000 eggs after a single feeding. This makes the insect incredibly hard to contain and eradicate.
The first long-horned tick sighting came in Northern New Jersey. Since then, the insect has been sighted in seven other states: West Virginia, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Experts previously believed that the species could not survive in this climate. However, since the long-horned tick has already survived one New Jersey winter, scientists are warning that it might be around for years to come. There is still no telling how the Asian tick arrived in the United States.
In Asia, the long-horned tick is known to carry a particularly deadly virus called phlebovirus that kills approximately 15 percent of its human victims. The virus causes a condition called severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) that leads to fatal blood clotting in 15 percent of cases, mostly in the elderly and immunocompromised.
Health officials have not identified phlebovirus in any of the Virginia ticks that they have tested so far, but are still urging caution. The best strategy is to wear long-sleeved clothing and pants when spending time outside in the woods or in tall grass and to apply a bug spray that includes DEET. You should also make sure that you regularly check your pets for ticks after they spend time outdoors. If your dog or cat spends most of its time outside, you should also consider getting your pet a preventative tick treatment.
Obviously, if you are bitten by a tick and fall ill, you should immediately seek medical attention.
Have you come across this species of tick? Tell us in the comments below!