Something else to worry about

An exotic East Asian tick, known as the longhorned or bush tick, was found on a farm in Hunterdon County this month, according to state Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher today.

The tick is deemed a serious pest to livestock, including horses, as well as pets and people. The tick has the potential to spread bacterial and viral diseases to humans and other animals.

The Monmouth County Tick-borne Diseases Lab at Rutgers University and the Hunterdon County Division of Health made the initial identification of the tick, which was not known to be present in the U.S. There are, however, records of at least a dozen previous collections of this species on animals and materials presented for entry at U.S. ports.

The tick is dark brown and grows to the size of a pea when fully engorged. Both larval and nymphal stages are very small and difficult to observe with the naked eye. Adult ticks are seen mainly during early summer, larvae from late summer to early winter and nymphs mainly in the spring. The animals and the property where the tick was found have been treated to eliminate the tick.

To determine if the tick has spread to nearby wildlife, surveillance is being conducted by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, Department of Environmental Protection, in cooperation with Wildlife Services from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia.

The potential impact of this tick on tickborne illness in New Jersey residents is not yet known. In other parts of the world, the bush tick has been associated with several tickborne diseases, some of which are found in New Jersey, such as spotted fever rickettsioses. The Department of Agriculture is investigating whether the ticks found locally are carrying any potential pathogens that may impact human or animal health.

Some tick species may become less active in the winter; however, it is important to take steps to prevent tick bites whenever you are in areas where ticks may be found.

It is suggested that a repellent be used on skin. The department advises using EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone, and treat clothing, boots and camping gear with permethrin.

State and federal animal health and wildlife officials are working to address these findings. Response efforts will include surveillance of the property and wildlife within the region. If necessary, tick treatments will be conducted to reduce the risks of spread. The primary goal is to eradicate the tick before it spreads to new areas.

Questions about livestock can be directed to your local veterinarian or the State Veterinarian at (609) 671-6400. This tick is a known pest in deer and has a wide host range, thus can infect a range of wildlife species. If the tick is detected in wildlife, then it should be immediately reported to the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Wildlife Management at (609) 984-6295 or the Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics at 908-637-4173 ext. 120.

For questions about tickborne illness in humans, contact your local health department or the state Department of Health at 609-826-5964

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