An invasive tick species is expanding in the U.S. and could soon make its way to Missouri, which is causing concern for some public health officials. The Asian longhorned tick that was first detected in New Jersey in 2017 can carry several human and animal diseases. The Illinois Department of Public Health announced in May that the tick was confirmed in that state.

“We’re interested to know when we’re going to start seeing that as it is a vector for another array of tickborne diseases,” according to Brooke Dedrick, a disease prevention specialist with the St. Louis County Health Department. “So, knowing when we start seeing that, knowing those tickborne diseases that are often associated with it will help our community and our doctors.”

Dedrick said the tick can reproduce without a male.

“The real kicker with the Asian longhorned tick is that they are asexual,” she said. “So, with every other species of tick, they have to have some sort of population to be able to lay their eggs, but with the Asian longhorned tick, that is not necessary.

In the U.S., the tick is known to carry and transmit diseases such as Lyme disease, Japanese spotted fever, or other severe fever symptoms.

“You know, if we found the Asian longhorned tick here, it being a competent vector of so many various diseases, it could potentially pick up any of the diseases that are natural and native ticks we see here carry,” Dedrick said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that it is an “aggressive biter” and frequently builds “intense infestations” on animals, causing great stress, reduced growth and production, and severe blood loss.

She urges Missourians to protect livestock by completing regular tick treatments. For humans, Dedrick recommends applying DEET to clothing.

© 2024, Missourinet