New ‘exotic’ tick invades NC, and it’s an ‘aggressive biter.’ How far has it spread?

Ticks are capable of spreading diseases to livestock, pets and humans.
Ticks are capable of spreading diseases to livestock, pets and humans.

An invasive species of “exotic” tick native to east Asia has been discovered in North Carolina, and it’s an “aggressive biter,” says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Longhorned tick was found recently on an opossum in Polk County, in western North Carolina along the South Carolina border. It’s about 90 minutes west of Charlotte.

Details of the discovery were not released, but a warning was issued Wednesday for the state’s veterinarians to be on the lookout for a rapid spread.

Longhorned ticks are capable of spreading disease, and the females reproduce without a male, says the N.C. Department of Agriculture. That means a single female can create a colony anywhere in the state, officials say.

“It is an aggressive biter and frequently builds intense infestations on animals causing great stress ... and blood loss,” said a statement issued by Michael Neault of the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

“It is a serious pest of livestock in its native regions ....This tick can spread pathogens among a diverse host range on which it feeds.”

Longhorned ticks are vulnerable to the same insecticides that kill other ticks, he said.

State officials say they are trying to find out how widespread the ticks have become and monitor for diseases they may potentially spread.

Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are among the four diseases most commonly associated with ticks in N.C.

Most diseases spread by ticks can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, say state officials. However, death can result if the illness goes untreated, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Longhorned ticks have also been spotted in New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, state officials said in a statement.

Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs