Non-native tick discovered in Polk County

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Health director cautions commissioners about newly-found arachnid

COLUMBUS — A tick native to eastern Asia has been found in Polk County.

The longhorned tick was recently discovered on an opossum somewhere in Polk County last week.

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Polk, Rutherford and McDowell Health District Director Karen Powell about the arachnid.

“A tick that has hardly ever been found in the United States has been found in Polk County,” Powell said. 

Karen Powell

The good news is any repellants people would put out for any other ticks for humans or animals work on this species, she said. Negatives are that the female can reproduce without the need for a male.

“So, if a female gets on an animal, it can produce an entire population,” Powell said.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson asked what happens if an animal or human gets bitten by these ticks. Powell said while no humans have been bitten yet, there is a potential for blood loss.

Powell said if the tick is found quickly and removed, nothing happens. There is no potential for illnesses like Lyme disease, she said.

County Manager Marche Pittman asked exactly where in Polk County the tick was found. Powell said she knows it was found on an opossum, but she does not know where exactly, but she would find out. Pittman said the county would like to know that information.

The invasive tick has been found in Australia and New Zealand, and was discovered in the United States in 2017, though it is now known to have been in the country since at least 2010. First detected in New Jersey, the tick is now found in several states, including Eastern states and Arkansas.

State information provided by Powell states that there is a broad host range, with the tick preferring cattle, sheep and horses. There is a considerable biting nuisance, with the parasite causing damage and irritation to livestock, humans, companion animals and wildlife.

The arachnid is also known as a cattle tick in New Zealand and a bush tick in Australia.

The tick is a confirmed transmitter of bovine theileriosis and parasites that cause babesiosis infection in animals, which can reduce dairy production on cattle farms and occasionally kill calves.

Anyone who believes they have collected a longhorned tick is asked to preserve it in ethanol or rubbing alcohol (70 percent or greater), and send the specimen in for testing.

Anyone with a specimen can visit for identification services.