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Health Team

CDC warns of exotic ticks spreading across nation that may carry diseases

Posted December 3, 2018 1:01 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2018 4:21 p.m. EST

— The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a tick that is spreading widely across the United States, including North Carolina.

Nine states have reported finding the Asian longhorned tick, which is known to carry a variety of pathogens. and the CDC said it is investigating how the tick could impact the U.S., according to NBC affiliate KING in Seattle.

"The full public health and agricultural impact of this tick discovery and spread is unknown," Ben Beard, deputy director of CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, said in a statement. "We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people and in the environment, is spreading in the United States."

Asian longhorned ticks are somewhat unusual in that a single female tick can reproduce up to 2,000 eggs without mating. So, hundreds to thousands of ticks can be found on a single person or animal.

New Jersey was the first state to report an Asian longhorned tick, first on a dog in 2013 and on a sheep in August 2017. Since then, eight other states have reported finding the tick on animals, people and in environmental samples: Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Health officials do not know whether the longhorned tick is capable of transmitting Lyme disease, but it has been shown in Asia to spread other serious diseases, such as SFTS virus and the pathogen that causes Japanese spotted fever, along with many diseases in animals.

In New Zealand and Australia, the Asian longhorned tick is known to hurt livestock, reducing production in dairy cattle by 25 percent, according to the CDC. The tick can also cause blood loss and death in calves.

Unfed ticks can live nearly a year.

To prevent tick bites, the CDC recommends using Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents, avoiding wooded areas and examining yourself and pets when coming indoors.