County Health Commissioner Warns of Long Horn Tick in Westchester County

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WPCNR HEALTH AWARENESS. From the Westchester County Department of Health. July 18, 2018:

The longhorned tick has arrived in Westchester County.  The New York State Departments of Health and Agriculture & Markets confirmed the presence of this tick, whose scientific name is Haemaphysalis longicornis tick, in the County.

The tick is native to Australia, New Zealand and eastern Asian, but has been found recently in New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas and now New York.

(Editor’s Note: the following from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture describes the tick in more detail:

The East Asian tick has been known to spread a deadly virus called SFTS, known as severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome. Symptoms of SFTS include fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, disease of the lymph nodes, and conjunctival congestion.

The latest discovery of tick was on the Watchung Reservation in Union County, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday.(in April of this year). While the tick was collected at the site last May, its identification was not made until Monday.

According to reports, a farmer in Hunterdon County first found the tick while shearing a sheep. This sheep had never traveled internationally and rarely left Hunterdon County, according to Andrea Egizi, a specialist at the Monmouth County Tick-borne Disease Lab. The sheep later died from an unrelated cause.

“Steps were promptly taken to eradicate the tick from the index property and the animals in and around it. Tests on the exotic tick in November failed to reveal any tickborne diseases,” New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “Local, state and federal animal health and wildlife officials, as well as Rutgers University — Center for Vector Biology are working together to eliminate this pest from the index premises and to contain its spread to the surrounding areas. Surveillance in wildlife and livestock species will continue throughout the year.”

tickpicThis exotic tick species entered New Jersey. Experts are concerned how the East Asian tick entered the United States. Photo: New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture

According to the department’s website, like deer ticks, the nymphs of the Longhorned tick are very small and can easily go unnoticed on animals and people. The species is dark brown and grows to about the size of a pea when engorged on blood, according to reports. They are known to swarm and infest a variety of wildlife as well as humans, dogs, cats and livestock.

The department urged people to notify the state veterinarian if unusual ticks are detected in livestock animals.

While the longhorned tick has transmitted disease to humans in other parts of the world, more research is needed to determine whether this can happen in the United States.

Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD, is once again advising Westchester residents to protect themselves, their farm animals and pets against ticks.

“It is always better to prevent tick bites whenever possible and to remove ticks as soon as possible, and the discovery of a new tick in our area gives us one more reason to be vigilant in performing tick checks on ourselves, our children and pets,” said Amler. “Farmers and livestock owners should consult with their veterinarians and continue to use the same preventive measures that work for other ticks.”

State Health Department research scientists collaborated with researchers at Fordham University and at the Lyme Disease Diagnostic Center of New York Medical College to identify these ticks. The identifications were confirmed by the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

This tick is a concern for the agricultural industry because it may pose a threat to livestock. The State and County Health Departments advise farmers to work with their veterinarians to check their animals, particularly cattle, sheep and horses, for exposure to ticks and to ensure their parasite control plans are up to date and working.

Symptoms of tick-borne disease in cattle include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, weakness and labored breathing.

If longhorned ticks are suspected, farmers should consult with their veterinarians and can contact the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Division of Animal Industry at 518-457-3502 or dai@agriculture.ny.govfor more information.

Tick prevention and removal tips are available and include:

While hiking, working, or spending time in wooded areas:

  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to protect against ticks other biting insects.
  • Check for ticks often while outdoors and brush off any ticks before they attach.
  • Perform a full body check multiple times during the day, as well as at the end of the day to ensure that no ticks are attached.
  • Consider use of repellents containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535, following label instructions.

If you have been bitten by a tick of any kind, contact your health care provider immediately if you develop a rash or flu-like symptoms.

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