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Invasive tick discovered in Morgan County

the Asian longhorned tick
the Asian longhorned tick

A tick that can transmit disease to cattle has been found during routine surveillance in Morgan County, the first appearance of the tick in the state. Considered an invasive species, the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) was discovered April 12. Additional surveillance found two more.

Illinois is the 20th state where the tick is present. Agriculture officials say it was first introduced to the U.S. in 2017.  

Asian longhorned ticks are light brown in color and are very small, often smaller than a sesame seed. In addition, a female can reproduce without a mate and lay up to 2,000 eggs at a time. Therefore, numbers may expand rapidly.

 “In some cases of severe H. longicornis infestation, livestock death has been reported,” said Dr. Mark Ernst, Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) State Veterinarian. “Farmers and producers should continue working with their veterinarian to maintain an appropriate management plan.”

The IDOA, IDPH and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) are monitoring the situation in partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture.

The CDC found germs spread via bites from these ticks can make people and animals seriously ill. Since they are relatively new to the U.S., more research is ongoing. One recent experimental study found that this tick is not likely to contribute to the spread of Lyme disease bacteria. But another study determined it has the ability to carry and spread the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The germs that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever have not yet been found in these ticks in nature.

“IDPH’s active tick surveillance program was instrumental in discovering the Asian long horned tick in Illinois,” said IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra. “Although the role that this tick will play in the transmission of infections in humans is yet to be determined, the Department of Public Health is working closing with the Department of Agriculture to monitor the presence of the tick and investigate the risk it carries to both humans and livestock.”

Authorities are offering the following tips:  

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions.
  •  Treat clothing and gear with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear.
  • Check your body and clothing for ticks upon return from potentially tick-infested areas, including your own backyard. Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body. Place tick-infested clothes in a dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks on dry clothing after you come indoors.
  • Shower soon after being outdoors. Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and is a good time to do a tick check.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area and prevention products for your pets and livestock.

If anyone believes they have identified H. longicornis on an animal, the tick should be placed in a jar with isopropyl alcohol, and the Department of Agriculture should be contacted at 217 782-4944.
The Illinois Beef Association had this advice for those with cattle herds:

1) Use pour-on external parasite control at the appropriate rates.

2) When working cattle look around the ears, below the tail, brisket areas for large numbers of small ticks. The ALTs are light brown in color and are very small, often smaller than a sesame seed. They are difficult to detect because they are very small. The adult female is only about the size of a pea when it is full of blood (fully engorged).

3) When bringing cattle in from other farms, out of state, or home from livestock shows quarantine the cattle and treat with an external parasite control. Before turn-out, inspect the animals for ticks.

4) Consult your herd veterinarian on appropriate herd health protocols.

Lastly, protect yourself and pets from tick bites. Permethrins can be applied to clothing and last through washings. Note of caution: read the labels and do not spray permethrins or have any wet clothes around pets. Check with your local vet on the appropriate products to protect your pets.

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