Researchers find harmful Lone star ticks are in Middlesex County

BY Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2| Jun 5, 2018 | MonroeNow

NEW BRUNSWICK — Researchers at Rutgers University said they have found another species of tick in Middlesex County that was previously thought to only live as far north in New Jersey as Monmouth County.

In an announcement from Rutgers University’s Rutgers Center for Vector Biology in New Brunswick on June 5, it said the Lone star ticks were discovered during the “Tick Blitz” along with confirmation that the exotic east Asian Longhorned tick was found in Mercer County. The Longhorned was previously found in Middlesex, Hunterdon and Union counties. Researchers also now have confirmed that the Longhorned tick has been in New Jersey since 2013.

While the Longhorned species has yet to cause any harm to people in the United States, the Lone star tick can cause several problems. Lone star ticks are native to North America, according to the statement.

The Tick Blitz “found this aggressive, human-biting tick to be abundant at several sites in Middlesex County,” the statement said. However, because of confidentially agreements, approximate locations where the ticks were found in the county could not be released.

The species is known to cause a bacterial disease that can cause fever, headache, fatigue, and muscles aches. The state also notes that “Its bit has also been known to cause alpha-gal meat allergy, which causes an allergic reaction to meat and meat products.”

Related: East Asian exotic tick found in Middlesex County, NJ department says

The detection of these ticks was made possible through the first-ever statewide Tick Blitz. The effort is led by Rutgers University in New Brunswick in collaboration with the 21 county mosquito control programs. The latest findings of the Longhorned species in Mercer County and the Lone star in Middlesex County also mapped the statewide distribution of the American dog tick. The dog tick is common in the state.

“It’s no surprise that ticks are widespread across New Jersey, but now we have clear information about how and where various tick species are distributed across the state,” said Robert M. Goodman, executive dean of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “Everyone enjoying the outdoors should follow the standard steps to protect themselves, their children and their pets against tick bites and the diseases they can spread.”

Rutgers New Brunswick developed the Tick Blitz in collaboration with the Monmouth County Tick-borne Diseases lab.

After an earlier training workshop taught at Rutgers EcoComplex, representatives of each county mosquito control program, aided by Rutgers students and employees of the State Department of Environmental Protection’s Mosquito Control Commission, collected ticks on May 10 at pre-determined locations across each New Jersey county.

The Rutgers Center for Vector Biology examined all ticks caught statewide, and sent specimens of the exotic Longhorned tick to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) for confirmation.

Rutgers New Brunswick is further examining ticks of all species found during the Tick Blitz to determine whether they carry microbes capable of causing disease in humans.

Longhorned ticks found thus far in New Jersey have tested negative for pathogens dangerous to humans or animals.

Earlier this year, the Longhorned tick was confirmed in Hunterdon County, a Union County park and at Rutgers University New Brunswick’s Cook Campus farm in Middlesex County.

The tick from 2013 was reexamined by Rutgers University staff and then sent to the NVSL for confirmation, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture said on June 5. Various local, state, and federal animal health agencies, as well as Rutgers, continue to work together to identify the range of the ticks and develop a plan to eliminate them from localized areas and prevent unintentional spread of the tick.

“If we find ticks in a specific area, we will do what we can to eliminate them from those known sites of infestation,” said Dr. Manoel Tamassia, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture State Veterinarian. “We will work to continue to identify the areas of the state where the tick is so we can help prevent its spread.”

Rutgers New Brunswick’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station provides information on tick-borne diseases.

Like deer ticks, the nymphs of the Longhorned tick are very small, resembling tiny spiders, and can go unnoticed on animals and people.

“Longhorned ticks have also been found on cattle in Virginia and West Virginia. Their presence is primarily of concern to livestock farmers as this species is known to develop large infestations that can damage meat and milk production even in the absence of pathogens,” according to the Rutgers statement. “The longhorned ticks found in New Jersey have not, thus far, been found to carry pathogens or to bite people. In its native range in Asia, however, this tick has been known to infect humans with diseases, including some known to be deadly.”

As part of New Jersey’s investigation, counties have set up drop off locations for the public to submit ticks they find on themselves, their pets, livestock or on wildlife. Information on these locations and how to submit a tick can be found on the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s website.

A tick line has also been established to leave a message if a tick is found and there is uncertainty about what the next steps are. For information about what to do if you find a tick on yourself, pets or livestock call 1-833-NEWTICK (1-833-639-8425).

“The Tick Blitz was an undoubted success and yielded some unexpected data,” said Dina Fonseca, director of the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology. “We now have an updated distribution of the lone star tick, have for the first time a firm grasp on the distribution of the American dog tick across the state, and found that the exotic longhorned tick is more widespread than we thought although perhaps not as much as we feared. This is critical information we need to assess the real impact of New Jersey’s ticks, native and exotic, on human health and agriculture and to develop strategies for control.”