An invasive species of tick native to east Asia that poses the greatest risk to livestock was discovered in Centre County, state officials said Tuesday.
Many scientists believed it was only a matter of time before the longhorned tick would be found in Pennsylvania. The ticks, which congregate in large numbers, survived this winter on a farm in northern New Jersey.
“Even experts have difficulty distinguishing among tick species, so it is important to take precautions to protect pets, livestock and family members from becoming a host for ticks of any kind,” State Veterinarian David Wolfgang said Tuesday, in a written statement.
The longhorned tick is named for its distinctive horns, which are difficult to spot with the naked eye. They infest host animals and can lay as many as 2,000 eggs at one time. Like all ticks, they are a possible carrier of disease.
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Tests by the Iowa-based National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed that a tick discovered on a wild deer in Centre County was a longhorned tick. That tick, like others found nationwide so far, did not test positive for any infectious diseases.
Apart from the risk of tick-borne pathogens, longhorned ticks can also cause anemia in livestock as they feed on the blood of the animal.
In addition to New Jersey, the tick has been found in Arkansas, New York, North Carolina and West Virginia. Earlier this month, a longhorned tick was found on a child in Bergen County, New Jersey.
“The discovery of the longhorn tick is another reminder of the importance of tick prevention for Pennsylvanians,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said, in a written statement. “Ticks can be found in your own backyard, so it is essential to wear long sleeves and pants, use insect repellant containing DEET to help keep you safe from ticks and the diseases they carry. It is also important to check yourself and your pets for ticks, as pets can bring ticks indoors.”
Pennsylvania’s most recent state budget contained an additional $2.5 million for tick-borne Lyme and mosquito-borne West Nile Virus programs. That money, however, is targeted more toward prevention than monitoring or research.
Wolfgang said livestock producers and pet owners should monitor closely for ticks. Reducing tick habitat, by creating buffers between wooded areas and lawns or pastures and keeping grass height low, is also an effective way to prevent tick bites.
Wallace McKelvey may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @wjmckelvey. Find PennLive on Facebook.
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