For years now, experts have warned of the possibility that new, harmful species of ticks could make their way to North America via bird migration or importation of livestock. This worry was confirmed to be legitimate in 2017, when the Asian long-horned tick was found on a sheep in New Jersey. To further spread concern across the continent, five cows were recently found dead in Surry County, North Carolina due to tick infestations caused by the Asian long-horned tick, alternately referred to as the ‘cattle tick’.

The Asian long-horned tick has long been feared due to its potential to spread tickborne illnesses such as Powassan virus, Japanese spotted fever, and Lyme disease to humans in Asia, but luckily human pathogens have not yet been detected in the species in the US. However, the tick is infamous for its ability to decimate livestock, depleting farmers resources in the process. One of the reasons the Asian long-horned tick is such a potent threat is the female ticks ability to multiply without mating, meaning they are able to exponentially increase tick populations without assistance. And sure enough, more than 1000 ticks were found on the body of one of the young dead bulls that was brought to the Northwestern Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab. According to state veterinarian Doug Meckes, the cows died of acute anemia caused by the tick infestations. 

Since its introduction to the US in 2017, the species has spread to at least 67 counties in North America, including the states of New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, and most recently Maryland. Attempts were made to eliminate the species from New Jersey after it was initially spotted, but the tick overwintered successfully and has gone on to become an invasive species in the area. 

People who have pets or livestock are advised to be vigilant and take extra precautions against ticks during warm weather. Although the tick does not yet have any connection to human infection in the US, state veterinarian Doug Meckes recommends wearing long clothing treated with permethrin, using DEET and other EPA-approved repellents, and advises people to shower immediately after returning home. Additionally, if you find a tick on your body and are unsure of its species, consider removing the tick, placing it in a ziploc bug with rubbing alcohol, and contact your local health department, agricultural department, or doctor to identify the species.