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Exotic tick invades fifth New Jersey county

NEW JERSEY — An exotic tick has invaded a fifth New Jersey county and the unwelcome intruder is hardly bigger than a black poppyseed and much smaller than a dime.

"If you don’t use repellant, always check yourself after you go for a walk in the woods," said Dr. Alvaro Toledo, assistant professor with the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University. "Wear long sleeves, long pants."

The East Asian or Longhorned tick is not native to the area but it's being increasingly found in the northeast, starting in New Jersey. It was first spotted in Hunterdon County on a sheep on Nov. 9, 2017. Since then, it's been discovered in Union, Middlesex, Mercer and now Bergen counties.

According to the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, the tick was found on Soldier Hill Golf Course in Emerson. One was also found on a child in Bergen County, although it didn't bite.

"We haven’t had a single case or a reported single case in the United States yet," Toledo said.

But in it's native East Asia, a bite from this tick has proven deadly for livestock and people. This species has been found to carry Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus (SFTSV) in China, with a reported human mortality rate of up to 12 percent.

It can leach onto wild animals or pets and it has been found on livestock, particularly horses, cattle and sheep.

"That means that you need to have your animals treated, which is something farmers do regularly in New Jersey," Toledo said.

What's unique about this species is that the females can clone themselves to reproduce. In other words, they don't need to find a mate in order to have offspring.

The New Jersey Department of Health is advising anyone who thinks they have a longhorned tick to promptly remove it and preserve it in rubbing alcohol or ethanol.

Researchers at Rutgers University's Center for Vector Biology and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory are capable of making a positive identification.

A full list of tick identification services is available here.