A vampire might be more welcome... according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Asian longhorned tick has made its debut in the Prairie State, marking its 20th conquest in the United States. Discovered on April 12 during routine tick surveillance in Morgan County, this tiny yet formidable arachnid has raised concerns among health and agricultural authorities. By the way, females can produce hundreds of offspring that can live on a single animal which in turn can lead to death by blood loss.

Credit: Center for Disease Control & Prevention The Asian Longhorned Tick.
Credit: Center for Disease Control & Prevention
The Asian Longhorned Tick.

So far the tick has invaded these states:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • and now... Illinois

So, what's the fuss about this tick? Well, let's start with its appearance. Picture a tick that's smaller than a sesame seed and light brown in color – that's the Asian longhorned tick for you. But don't let its diminutive size fool you; this tick packs a punch when it comes to reproduction. A female can lay up to 2,000 eggs without the need for a mate, making its numbers skyrocket faster than you can say "tick."

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But it's not just about quantity; it's about the diseases it carries. While this tick species is known to transmit theileriosis to cattle, causing blood loss and even death in calves, its potential impact on humans is still under investigation. Though no human pathogens have been detected in US populations yet, Asian longhorned ticks have been associated with various tick-borne diseases globally, including Lyme disease and spotted fever.

The discovery in Illinois underscores the importance of active surveillance programs like the one conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). Thanks to their efforts, the presence of this invasive species was promptly identified, allowing for swift action and collaboration with the Department of Agriculture to assess the risks it poses to both humans and livestock. But, good news for us, we are less appealing to this tick as a lunch menu item.

Photo Credit: CDC
Photo Credit: CDC

What can we do to protect ourselves and our furry friends from this tiny intruder?As with any tick, prevention is key. Here are a few steps you can take:

  1. Perform Regular Tick Checks: After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check yourself, your pets, and livestock for any ticks. Pay close attention to areas like the scalp, behind the ears, and underarms.
  2. Use Tick Repellents: Apply EPA-approved insect repellents containing DEET or permethrin to skin and clothing before heading outdoors. This can help deter ticks from latching on.
  3. Create Tick-Safe Zones: Keep grass trimmed, remove leaf litter, and create a barrier of wood chips or gravel between wooded areas and your home or recreational areas to reduce tick habitat.
  4. Protect Your Pets: Use tick prevention products recommended by your veterinarian for your pets, and regularly groom them to remove any ticks.
  5. Stay Informed: Keep an eye on local health advisories and reports about tick activity in your area. Awareness is key to staying ahead of potential threats.

While the discovery of the Asian longhorned tick in Illinois may raise concerns, proactive measures and collaboration between public health and agricultural authorities can help mitigate its impact. It's time to stay vigilant to keep this pests numbers down.

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