Five cows in Surry County, North Carolina, were recently reported dead after acute anemia attributed to tick infestation. As reported by North Carolina State Veterinarian Doug Meckes, one of the deceased bulls had more than 1,000 ticks on its body. These ticks were identified to be the invasive Asian longhorned ticks, which are newcomers to the United States - they first appeared in 2017.
While the ticks are known to carry human pathogens in their native environments in East Asia, there has been only one documented case of a human bite associated with the Asian longhorned tick in the U.S., which did not cause disease in the patient. In the meantime, there is no doubt that these ticks pose a risk to cattle and other livestock in North America.
These concerns are further exacerbated by the striking fact that the strain can reproduce asexually. This means that female ticks are capable of laying eggs without mating, allowing tick populations to grow and expand rapidly.
But why is this happening?
One of the most likely reasons is climate change. The Asian longhorned tick is not the first invasive species to establish itself out of its ecological habitat, and it unfortunately won't be the last as global temperatures rise.
The increase of invasive, disease-carrying ticks is a global health concern that requires a structured plan of action. However, on the individual level, every person engaging in prolonged outdoor activity is advised to be vigilant, wear protective clothing, and periodically check for tick attachment.