MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is monitoring a large population of Asian longhorned ticks in South Carolina.
Public health and livestock officials said the Asian longhorned tick is an invasive species. It was found in the United States back in 2010 and has been in 17 states.
The species was discovered in South Carolina in 2020 on shelter dogs in the midlands and upstate, but this is the first time it has been found in multiple life stages for several years in a row in York County.
Melissa Nolan, assistant professor at the Arnold School of Public Health said the ticks are unique because they can transmit up to 34 different pathogens. Most ticks can only transmit one.
The Asian longhorned tick also reproduces very quickly. The female can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs without mating.
The ticks have caused medical problems for sheep and cattle in the U.S.
“Other states have had trouble where cows have actually died from these ticks because there were so many ticks feeding on them that it caused anemia and literally bled the animal to death,” she said.
Nolan said the tick could bring larger problems to South Carolina if it is not monitored and controlled.
“This can have a major economic impact on our state,” she said. “We don’t want this here and we definitely don’t want it affecting our cows or any goats or any other kind of livestock that we have.”
Nolan said this is not meant to cause alarm. There is no tick epidemic, but this is to bring awareness to be on the lookout so the tick population can be monitored.
Nolan is also the director of the University of South Carolina Laboratory of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. She encourages people to send ticks to the lab to help monitor the spread of ticks and control the populations.
“We’re outgoing and trying to collect these ticks, but we obviously can’t be everywhere all the time, so that’s why if people can send us the ticks they come across it helps us kind of fill in those gaps,” she said.
Those who would like to participate in a tick surveillance program should carefully collect a tick with gloved hands, tweezers or another tool, and send them — dead or alive, in a puncture-resistant sealable vial or storage bag — to Laboratory of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 921 Assembly Street #417A Columbia, SC 29201.
Included should be your name and phone number, address of where the tick was collected, date of collection, and specify if it was found on a human or animal along with the type of animal.
Nolan recommends several tips to stop the spread of ticks and stay safe. Some tips are mowing tall grass and shrubs, wearing bug spray, spraying insecticides and putting tick repellent on animals.
She said it is important to check for ticks after spending time outdoors. Ticks like to hide under the waistbands of pants and in moist areas like under arms.