Health officials have discovered South Carolina’s first major infestation of invasive ticks in York County

The Asian longhorned tick is the kind of parasite that gives virologists nightmares. It does not need a mate to breed and can lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time. It can also spread a range of diseases to humans, pets and livestock.

And state health and animal husbandry officials announced Friday morning that this invasive tick has infected an undisclosed cattle farm in York County.

According to the USDA, 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 through the state tick surveillance program, a joint effort between DHEC, the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and Clemson University Livestock Health of Poultry.. (See the May 2021 South Carolina Public Radio broadcast HERE.)

“Although no documented cases of diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, or anaplasmosis due to bites from Asian long-horned ticks have been reported in the United States, the ability of this type of tick to spread diseases that can sicken people and animals is a concern.” , said Dr. Chris Evans, DHEC state public health entomologist. “However… the ability of this tick species to increase its populations very quickly, resulting in large infestations in a short period of time, is also worrying.”

Dr. Michael Newult, South Carolina state veterinarian and director of Clemson University’s Department of Livestock and Poultry Health, says pet owners should consult their veterinarians about using products approved in the United States for other tick species that have been found to be effective in treating animals with the Asian longhorned tick.

“Establishment of the Asian longhorned tick has real animal and human health concerns,” said Dr. Melissa Nolan, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health and the University of South Carolina’s Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Disease Laboratory. “We are asking the public to send us any ticks they come across 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.”

Asian long-horned ticks are light brown in color and small. Due to their small size and fast movement, they are difficult to detect. These ticks can feed on any animal, but are most commonly found on livestock, dogs and humans.

Although Dr. Nolan said the York County population is contained to the cattle farm where they were found for now, the ticks are treatable if they start showing up in yards.

“The good news is that this tick is very responsive to different insecticides,” she said in a phone interview Friday. “This means that if you find one of these ticks in your yard, you can use the regular sprays that are available at Lowe’s or other Home Depot-type stores.”

State health officials are asking residents to carefully submit ticks suspected of being Asian longhorned ticks for confirmatory identification.

“Pick up a tick using gloved hands, tweezers, or another instrument and send the collected ticks, live or dead, in a puncture-resistant sealable vial or ziplock storage bag to the Vector and Zoonotic Disease Laboratory, 921 Assembly Street #417A Columbia , SC 29201,” DHEC said in a statement.

Include your name and phone number and the address where the tick was taken (if not a street address, give directions and distances from nearby road intersections), and also include the date of collection and whether the tick was found on a person or animal.

For additional information on Asian long-horned ticks, visit the Clemson University Ticks and Animal Health webpage. To learn more about tick-borne diseases in South Carolina and the University of South Carolina School of Public Health’s Tick Identification Program, visit scdhec.gov/ticks.

Correction: The photo above was originally credited in error. USC’s Kyndall Braumuller is the photographer.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.