Global Warming Update! As Ticks Spread, New Disease Risks Threaten People, Pets and Livestock

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As Ticks Spread, New Disease Risks Threaten People, Pets and Livestock

One tick that a new study shows is endangering cattle in Virginia is able to clone itself, making colonizing new locations that much easier.

BY NINA PULLANO

“It didn’t take long for one of America’s newest tick species to find Thomas Mather.

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“Mather, an entomologist who specializes in the tiny disease-carriers, had taken a team of scientists to Staten Island, New York, in hopes of collecting at least one Asian longhorned tick.

“They were all of 50 feet from their car and had just unfurled a banner of white fabric, known as a tick drag, when the first longhorned tick landed in the fabric. Dragging a nearby patch of grass with the fabric, more longhorned ticks appeared. On a grass blade, Mather spotted an unusual clump and discovered dozens of tiny, seed-like tick larvae waiting for a victim to brush past.

“If the Asian longhorned tick was unheard of in America just a few years earlier, it wasn’t a stranger here anymore.

“Since 2013, the Asian longhorned tick has popped up in at least 11 U.S. states, mostly in the Northeast. Previously limited to Asia, Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific Islands, it likely found several ports of entry to North America, hitching a ride on animals or humans. Its ability to clone itself without a mate made colonizing new locations that much easier.

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“While the longhorned tick is still feeling out its range in North America, other established tick species are expanding theirs as the climate changes and the planet warms—with consequences for humans, pets and the livestock industry.

“Several tick species have spread to new areas of the country, some carrying diseases that can pose serious health risks to humans, including Lyme disease, which can affect the joints, heart and nervous system, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a treatable but potentially fatal disease that causes fever and muscle pain…”


 

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