27 Dec

Map of the Week: Asian Longhorned Tick

Potential Asian Longhorned Tick Range in North America

A dangerous invasive species is a rising cause for concern among those who live in the Eastern United States; not only for people, but for wild animals and livestock as well. An invasive species of ticks, called the Asian Longhorned Tick has been spotted on the East Coast, and researchers have found that they are spreading. The first sighting happened in August of 2017 in New Jersey, where they were discovered on a Monmouth County persons sheep. Since then, the tick has been detected in eight more states, with a presence spanning from Connecticut to Arkansas. Researchers say that the expansion of this species of tick is expected to continue.

This map shows the potential spread of their habitat based on suitable conditions for the tick:

Being native to East Asia, the Longhorned tick is known to spread disease in that region of the world. Although “no active disease transmission has been yet discovered in the U.S. population” there is a risk that the spread of various pathogens could begin if the population is not controlled. In their native range, Longhorned ticks are vectors for serious human diseases. Most notable is thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS) which can cause fever, vomiting, and multiple organ failure. An immediate concern is that the tick could pick up and transmit the Heartland virus which is a close relative to SFTS and is active in the U.S.

Nobody is quite sure how the Asian longhorned tick first arrived in the U.S, but the suitability of the climate on the East Coast means that they might be here to stay. Factors such as temperature, relative humidity, and precipitation all contribute to this suitable habitat for the ticks, making much of the eastern U.S. and south east Canada suitable for the tick, as the map shows. As the tick continues to proliferate, millions of animals across the country could become exposed to these creatures. To help control the recent infestation, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) plans to expand its current tick distribution maps to include Asian longhorns, and launch research colonies to test, “which hosts the ticks prefer and what diseases they might be capable of carrying.” (NatGeo)

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Written by: Sean Halpin