The Grapevine

How To Protect Against Ticks: CDC Warns Of New Species Spreading

Whether you are taking a walk through the woods or your backyard, there is always the risk of coming into contact with ticks. These tiny parasites are known for spreading Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, alpha-gal syndrome, and more.

Now, experts have shared an update that may warrant some extra caution. There is a new tick species spreading across the United States, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The species — known as the Asian longhorned tick or H. longicornis — is native to eastern Asia.

"The presence of H. longicornis in the United States represents a new and emerging disease threat," the report stated. It was first detected on a sheep in New Jersey in August last year.

Since then, it has been detected in Arkansas, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. These detections have involved domestic animals, wild animals, and two human beings.

In China and Japan, the longhorned tick has been found to spread a potentially fatal disease. The virus, according to Health, is estimated to kill 15 percent of people who are bitten. However, there have been no cases of this in the states yet. The CDC report pointed out there have not been illnesses in humans or any of the other animals that were examined. So the level of threat posed by these ticks remains unclear for the time being.

"The full public health and agricultural impact of this tick discovery and spread is unknown," said Ben Beard, deputy director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the CDC. "In other parts of the world, the Asian longhorned tick can transmit many types of pathogens common in the United States. We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people, and in the environment, is spreading in the United States."

If you are in a situation where you may be exposed to ticks, wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Light colors are preferred as they make it easier to spot them. 

"Tucking pants into socks is a totally nerdy-looking thing, but in this case it can save you the suffering from a tick-borne disease later on," suggested Holly Donohoe, a researcher at the University of Florida.

You may also use a chemical repellent with DEET, permethrin or picaridin. Take a shower after spending time outdoors and make sure to check yourself for ticks, especially moisture-prone areas like the underarms, the hair, the back of your knees, etc.

In case you do find a tick, do not panic. Experts note that it takes more than 24 hours for any possible transmission of pathogens, so the sooner you remove it, the better. The CDC explains how to remove them correctly with the help of tweezers.