A nasty tick known to spread pathogens and diseases affecting humans, wildlife and livestock is now creeping among us.
For the first time in Delaware history, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) announced the discovery resulted from its new tick surveillance program within the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Mosquito Control.
The tick has a particularly bad reputation in its native eastern Asia, but only two instances of Asian longhorned ticks attached to humans have been confirmed in the US. To date, DNREC says there have been no reported instances of disease transmission to humans or animals.
The agency nabbed the buggers during tick sampling initiated this spring when a total of five Asian longhorned tick nymphs – immature ticks – were found in late June in northern New Castle County.
Where the ticks were found
When contacted, officials at DNREC would not reveal where specifically in New Castle County the ticks were located. A spokeswoman did not explain why that information was not released to the public. But DNREC says that primary habitats for the Asian longhorned are meadows and grassy areas near forested locations, making Delaware’s piedmont region located north of I-95 at the greatest risk for establishment of this species.
DNREC emphasized that the ticks have not been found in the coastal plain south of I-95.
How to protect yourself from ticks
DNREC says prevention is key to reducing tick-borne disease in humans. The agency advises taking simple steps to avoid all tick species including the Asian longhorned by using insect repellent containing DEET, spraying clothing with permethrin, and wearing trousers tucked into your shoes along with long-sleeved clothing that covers extremities.
Checking your body for ticks daily and showering soon after being outdoors all help to prevent tick attachment. The Division of Public Health urges anyone who develops a fever, rash, or other symptoms following a tick bite to contact their health care provider.
With the Asian longhorned tick confirmation, Delaware now has seven tick species of human or domestic animal health concern, with five species of primary focus: black-legged or deer ticks, lone star ticks, American dog ticks, Gulf Coast ticks, and now the Asian longhorned tick (also known as the cattle tick or bush tick). Delaware’s finding brings the total number of states with recognized Asian longhorned tick populations to 12.
The Asian longhorned tick was first observed and identified in North America on sheep in New Jersey in 2017, although the Northeast Regional Center for Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases at Cornell University subsequently determined that the species has been present in the US since 2010. The range of this invasive tick species has spread quickly, and now includes neighboring Pennsylvania and Maryland as well as New Jersey.
The Asian longhorned tick expanded beyond its native China, Korea, and Japan to New Zealand and Australia, before arriving in the United States through a variety of possible routes. This tick is native to regions with a climate similar to the northeastern United States, allowing it to survive and overwinter here.
DNREC says that while there have been no reports of Asian longhorned tick-borne illness occurring in the United States, in other countries, bites from these ticks have made people seriously ill. According to Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Paula Eggers of the Delaware Division of Public Health, no disease-causing agents for people have been found to date in Asian longhorned ticks collected in the United States.
For more information about:
- Tick biology/management – Contact the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Mosquito Control Section tick program at 302-739-9917.
- Tick-related human health or medical issues – Contact the Delaware Division of Public Health at 888-295-5156.
- Tick-related agricultural or livestock issues – Contact the Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section at 302-698-4500 or 800-282-8685 (Delaware only).