Recent reports of the longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis or Asian Longhorned tick)being found in Westchester County, New York have alarmed livestock owners and outdoor enthusiasts statewide. The longhorned tick is native to Asia and was reported in the continental USA in November 2017, when it was first discovered on a sheep farm in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. This tick has already been identified in western Connecticut. While the Asian longhorned ticks discovered in the United States has not been found to carry any pathogen causing human diseases, In Asia the longhorned tick has been associated with tick-borne encephalitis, and they are apparently capable of carrying Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Ehrlichia chaffeensis, Babesiaspecies, and Powassan virus all of which can affect humans. This tick may also represent a problem for farm animals since they can transmit a pathogen that causes theileriosis, a disease of cattle and sheep, as well as the agents that cause babesisosis in animals. An interesting feature of this tick is that it can reproduce by parthogenesis (no male needed), so the number of ticks on one animal can be very high.
UConn’s Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL), part of the Department of Pathobiology in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, is on the frontline of tick testing to keep humans and animals safe.
“Our staff are watching out for this tick among our tick submissions,” says Dr. Joan Smyth, Director of CVMDL. “To date we have not had any longhorned ticks. Our lab offers tick identification services, in addition to the many other services provided.”
Ticks are disease-carrying arachnids that reside in moist areas, long grass and the leaf litter and will latch onto humans and animals alike. Although there are many different species of ticks, people generally think of one tick species in particular when worrying about illness: the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis). While the Deer tick is predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the corkscrew-shaped bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi) it can also carry other disease-causing agents. A single tick can transmit more than one infectious agent.
In humans, symptoms from a longhorned tick bite include rash, fever, nausea, body aches, tiredness, headache and vomiting. Symptoms for animals vary by species and can include blood loss, anemia, skin irritations and infections. Always consult your veterinarian if you notice changes in your animals.
Tick testing at CVMDL serves multiple purposes. It helps the person or veterinarian who submitted the tick understand the potential exposure of the subject that the tick was found on. Our researchers are also using the results from tick testing to track current and emerging disease producing agents carried by ticks. The data can be used in setting priority areas for prevention and vaccine development.
If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet, remove it immediately! CVMDL can test the tick for pathogens. Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined under a microscope by trained technicians to determine the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal. Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are common to that tick species. Results are normally reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, but next day testing is available for an additional fee.
Please send ticks together with a small square of moist paper towel, in sealed zip lock bags. The submission form, pricing and the “Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing” can be found on our website at http://s.uconn.edu/468.
For more information, read the article from UConn Magazinethat includes tips to prevent tick bites, or watch the UConn Science in Seconds video. You can also contact the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at email@example.com or 860-486-3738 or visit the tick testing page on our website http://cvmdl.uconn.edu/service/tick.php.