ROCK HILL, SC (CN2 NEWS) – South Carolina health officials are speaking out, warning the community of the dangers and concerns of a recent discovered invasion of the Asian long-horned tick in a pasture in a York County beef farm.
They’re so small it can be hard to see them if you’re walking around, but South Carolina DHEC wants the community to know that these tiny ticks can create big problems.
In the interview above, CN2’s Renee O’Neil breaks down further on ticks and the concerns of health officials.
COLUMBIA, SC ― South Carolina public health and animal husbandry officials recently identified a large population of Asian long-horned ticks infesting a pasture on a beef farm in York County. This invasive species of tick is not commonly found in the United States, and bites from these ticks have caused serious illness in people, animals, and livestock in other countries.
Since June 2022, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports Asian long-horned ticks were first identified in the United States in 2010 and have since been found in 17 states. In South Carolina, a small number of these ticks were identified in 2020 on shelter dogs in Lancaster and Pickens counties.
Asian long-horned ticks in South Carolina were identified through the state’s tick surveillance program — a collaborative effort between DHEC, the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, and Clemson University Livestock Poultry Health.
“Although no documented cases of illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis have been reported in the United States due to Asian long-horned tick bites, the ability of this species of tick to spread diseases that can make people and animals sick is a concern,” said Dr. Chris Evans, state public health entomologist with DHEC’s Office of Environmental Health Services. “However, more research is needed in the United States to better understand what diseases the Asian longhorned tick can spread and how much of a health risk they pose to people, livestock, and other animals.” The ability of this tick species to increase its populations very quickly, resulting in large infestations in a short period of time, is also of concern. »
Unlike other ticks, a single female Asian long-horned tick can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a time without mating. This means that a single animal can harbor hundreds or thousands of ticks.
Dr. Michael Neault, South Carolina State veterinarian and director of the Poultry and Livestock Health Department at Clemson University, advises pet owners to consult with their veterinarian about using products approved in the United States for other tick species that have been shown to treat pets with the Asian longhorned tick.
“Pet and livestock owners should discuss with their veterinarians the use of appropriate tick preventative products for their pets,” Neault said. “Livestock owners should especially be aware that these ticks can carry the Theileria parasite. In Virginia, they have already spread this infection to sheep, and it can also spread to cattle. In other countries, the Asian long-horned tick has spread anaplasmosis among livestock, so producers may want to take preventative measures for their herds.
Asian long-horned ticks are light brown in color and tiny. Due to their small size and quick movements, they are difficult to detect. These ticks can feed on any animal, but are most commonly found on livestock, dogs, and humans.
“The establishment of the Asian long-horned tick poses real animal and human health problems”, said Dr. Melissa Nolan, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health and director of the Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases Laboratory at the UofSC. “We are asking the public to send us any ticks they encounter in their daily lives to help us track and monitor its spread. With local help, I believe we can slow the spread of this tick in our state.
A recent $585,000 grant awarded to Dr. Nolan by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will allow the South Carolina Tick Surveillance Program to expand its efforts. The five-year project will bring together experts from nearly a dozen locations in nine key states to form the CDC Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases – a collective effort that will improve the identification and monitoring of the migration of ticks and hotspots, including invasive species like the Asian long-horned tick.
To help state officials learn more about the prevalence of Asian long-horned ticks in South Carolina, residents are urged to carefully submit ticks suspected of being Asian longhorned ticks for confirmation identification. This surveillance will help determine the presence, distribution, seasonality, and potential risks of tick-borne diseases.
To participate in the tick surveillance project, carefully collect a tick using gloved hands, tweezers, or other tool and ship the collected ticks, alive or dead, in a puncture-resistant sealable bottle or storage bag. zipper to Vector and Zoonotic Diseases Laboratory, 921 Assembly Street #417A Columbia, SC 29201. Please include:
- Your name and phone number
- Address of where the tick was collected (if not a civic address, provide directions and distances to nearby road intersections)
- Date of collection
- Indicate if the tick was found on a human or an animal and specify the type of animal
State health officials are asking all South Carolina residents to watch out for ticks when spending time outdoors. To help prevent tick bites and possible exposure to tick-borne diseases:
- Use U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone.
- Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Follow all label directions.
- Wear protective clothing tucked in around the ankles and waist.
- Shower with soap and shampoo soon after being outdoors.
- Keep weeds and tall grass trimmed and avoid tick-infested areas such as grassy and swampy woodland areas when possible.
- Stay in the center of the trails when hiking or walking through the woods.
- Check daily for ticks, especially under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the navel, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and on the hairline.
- Check pets daily for ticks and treat them as recommended by a veterinarian.
Clemson University recommends that livestock owners work with their veterinarian and extension worker to develop a comprehensive tick management plan that includes the use of approved tick control products that can be applied to horses and livestock and in following procedures that reduce ticks in pastures.
Importantly, the Asian longhorned tick is unrelated to the Asian longhorned beetle which was identified in South Carolina two years ago and caused a 73 square mile quarantine zone in Charleston counties and Dorchester.
For more information on Asian long-horned ticks, visit Clemson University South Carolina Ticks and Animal Health webpage. To learn more about tick-borne diseases in South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health’s Tick Identification Program, visit scdhec.gov/ticks.