County Reports New Tick Species Discovered in Westchester

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County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler holding photos of a longhorn tick, including an image of a tick that is fully engorged (right).

Westchester County Health Commissioner Dr. Sherlita Amler alerted the public Wednesday of a tick species that is new to the area but said precautions used for other ticks appear to be effective.

The longhorn tick, which is native to Asia, Australia and New Zealand, was confirmed on Tuesday to have arrived in the county in multiple tests conducted by Fordham University and at the Lyme Disease Diagnostic Center of New York Medical College, Amler said. The identifications were confirmed by the Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology and the United States Department of Agriculture, according to the state Department of Health.

The longhorn tick’s appearance in Westchester is noteworthy because its discovery is the first time its presence has been confirmed in New York State, Amler said during a press briefing in White Plains. The tick was first found in the United States last year at a New Jersey farm and there have also been discoveries in Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas since then, she said.

Amler said that there have been no reported cases of communicative disease associated with the tick in the United States. So far, it’s biggest threat has been to livestock and pets, she said.

“You should do what you’ve always done and been successful in keeping ticks from your pets,” Amler said during a Wednesday press briefing in White Plains. “So whatever you’ve done in the past is what you should continue to do. This tick seems to be susceptible to the same protocols that have always been used.”

Symptoms in humans include high fever, low platelet counts or a red rash from reported cases of longhorn tick bites in Asia, she said. It is unclear at this time if the longhorn tick can carry Lyme disease. Also, a female longhorn tick can reproduce asexually, Amler said.

The state Department of Health issued a release urging New Yorkers to take steps to protect themselves, their children and their pets.

“We will continue to conduct surveillance and research on this new type of tick, but it is encouraging that the same steps that protect against deer ticks are also effective against the longhorn tick,” said state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

It is not known how the longhorn tick managed to get to the United States, although some health officials believe that it may have been on a pet or a person who traveled from one of its native areas.

Amler outlined a series of steps that residents should take to prevent tick bites and what to do should one be spotted on them.

–When outdoors, stay on a path and avoid brushing with vegetation as much as possible.

–Wear light colored clothing so any tick can be easily seen. If a tick is on clothing brush it off. Upon returning from the outdoors, place clothes in a hot dryer for 10 minutes. The high heat will kill the tick.

–Wear long sleeves and pants and tuck the pants into shoes and socks. Continue to check for ticks on clothes throughout an outing.

–Use a repellent containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535.

–If the longhorn tick does attach to your body, use a sharp pair of tweezers to get under the head of the tick and apply gentle pressure and slowly extract the tick.

“You want to do it this way because you do not want to break the head or mouth of the tick into your skin because if you do, an infection could occur there,” Amler said.

A longhorn tick needs to be attached to a person for about 48 hours for it to transmit a disease, she said. When fully engorged, it is about the size of a pea.

Once a tick that has been attached to a pet or a person’s skin has been removed, place it in a container to bring to the veterinarian, or if symptoms surface in a human, a doctor can see what kind of tick it is.

Amler said that Westchester Medical Center has s tick clinic that is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. through August. Anyone who had a tick attached to them or a pet can bring it to the clinic for testing.

For more information and to view a photo of the longhorn tick, visit the county Department of Health website page at http://health.westchestergov.com.

 

 

 

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