Invasive species of tick causes infestation in Palmetto State

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — First discovered in the United State in 2017, an invasive species has made its way to South Carolina.

The Asian longhorned tick has been detected on a farm in York County.

“Historically, we’ve always worked to mitigate mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases, but we’ve started noticing in the last couple years that tick-borne diseases are on the rise. This is a continuation of an ongoing project,” said Dr. Melissa Nolan, University of South Carolina epidemiology professor.

The state’s tick surveillance program identified an infestation of ticks in York County on cattle. 

“The producer right now is treating the cattle as needed with kericide. At least he’s using a product to kill the ticks and to prevent any others from attaching to the cattle,” said Dr. Michael Neault, South Carolina state veterinarian.

Farms are advised to control weeds, overgrown grass and woody debris to decrease the risk of a tick infestation. People are advised to use insect repellent, wear protective clothing and shower soon after being outdoors.

“This tick can replicate very quickly. It undergoes a very unique process where it doesn’t need a male to reproduce,” Nolan said. “You can get thousands of ticks in one population. That’s not normal.”

DHEC says so far no tick-borne illness has been detected in humans in South Carolina. However, the species is known to carry 17 diseases that impact animals and others that have impacted humans in other countries.

“We really don’t want this tick in our state. Not only can it replicate very quickly, it can also transmit a large variety of pathogens. We have detected Lyme disease, anaplasia and a couple other commonly known pathogens in ticks in other states,” Nolan said. “We have not seen that result in human disease yet, but it’s still something that’s an ongoing situation and one we want to closely monitor.”

Since tick-borne illnesses are not commonly identified in the Palmetto State, DHEC is afraid that illness from these ticks could already be occurring. 

“It is a concern that we are missing cases. We continue to ask providers to be on the alert for unexplained rash illnesses or things that can present with arthritis or fevers to get a complete evaluation. Consider consulting with an infectious disease expert who may have more experience with infectious diseases,” said Dr. Linda Bell, South Carolina state epidemiologist. 

If you do find a tick on you, DHEC says you should remove it with tweezers, store it in a jar with rubbing alcohol and contact your health department.


Categories: Local News, Richland