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Dana Brandes-Simon
Health

A Potentially Deadly Tick From East Asia Found Its Way to the US

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Research shows that climate change has forced ticks to invade new areas, posing serious health threats to unassuming populations. You can join us in taking climate action here.

The Asian long-horned tick is the first new tick species to arrive in the United States in 50 years, and it’s making its debut across the east coast, according to the New York Times. It’s been seen in seven states, and is especially prevalent in the suburbs of New York City.

The ticks are known for gathering in large numbers on hosts and gorging on blood, the Times notes. They were first discovered in the US on Nov. 9, 2017, on a sheep farm in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, according to New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture.

Asian long-horned ticks are primarily found in countries such as South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. 

Thus far, the tick hasn’t posed a significant threat to people in the US, largely because it hasn’t picked up dangerous pathogens in the country. Also, the tick has a preference for livestock over humans.

For livestock, these ticks transmit theileriosis, a disease that causes anemia and sometimes death.

The insect can also carry other diseases like Lyme, spotted fever, and others, according to the Lyme Disease Association. There is also potential for these ticks to carry alpha-gal syndrome, which causes an allergy to red meat. In East Asia, they’re known for transmitting phlebovirus that causes SFTS, which causes internal bleeding and organ failure.

Take Action: Ensure All Communities Can Withstand Cliamte Disaster

The fatality rate of SFTS is about 15% among the average population, and jumps to 60% for people over 60, according to the Times.

If the tick picks up pathogens, it could generate grave health concerns, especially because of its resilience. The ticks can survive carbon dioxide traps, according to a CBS reported lab test, and are known to reproduce asexually

So far in the US, they’ve been found biting sheep, dogs, horses, deer, calves, and humans.

Read More: Climate Change Is Forcing Earth Toward a 'Hothouse' Point of No Return

Other ticks are far more worrisome, causing tick-borne diseases to rise throughout the US. Every year, more than 30,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease, and experts estimate that the real number of those infected annually hovers around 300,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The threat of ticks has only become more concerning as temperatures warm and their ranges expand, according to New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture, exposing more people to disease.

"We know that climate change has contributed to Lyme disease spreading northward and to higher elevations," Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, told NPR.