Healthcare

Tick Disease Found in US: Are Humans on Risk too? How to prevent?

According to a study published on MMWR report, The Asian longhorned tick scientifically known as Haemaphysalis longicornis which was found last year in U.S has now reported to be spreading with a rapid number, putting humans on risks too.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described Tick as a significant vector in transmitting diseases in humans and animals. Although no recent cases have been reported regarding this, this species has now become a threat, not only to animals and humans but to the environment as well.

As per the researchers, this arachnid has already attacked wildlife, domestic animals and at least 2 people in different parts of the United States including New Jersey, Maryland, West Virginia, New York, Arkansas, North Carolina, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

This species of the tick holds some different reproductive characteristics than others; it can produce 1,000 to 2,000 eggs at a single time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the oddest thing about these ticks is that it can reproduce without mating. This makes both animals and humans a home to an organism that can multiply into hundreds of ticks every day.

In the United States even though no cases have been linked with ticks but it is still associated with being an important vector for transmitting viruses of hemorrhagic fever in humans. As per the team of C. Ben Beard of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Centre for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, these Asian ticks are “a new and emerging disease threat.”

The Asian longhorned ticks have already brought devastating effects in some parts of the world including New Zealand and Australia where they have reduced the dairy cattle production by almost 25%.

Ticks are a cause of distress to the Americans because they can cause severe infections like Powassan encephalitis, Lyme disease by a harmful bacteria Borrelia, Rocky Mountain, Babesiosis and Japanese spotted fever by Rickettsia japonica.

Rickettsia japonica is a virus which can attack the humans with Japanese spotted fever, the symptoms of which can are high fever and red rash. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that these ticks act a vector for other serious ailments too like the ticks are also the carriers of Heartland and Powassan viruses.

As this arachnid has attacked the native land of Americans, it has brought up a specter of a newly found serious illness in which the human gets a severe hemorrhagic fever caused by thrombocytopenia syndrome virus (SFTSV). It was at first spotted in China, then South Korea and Japan.

The reexamination of historical samples shows that the invasion occurred years back. The report says: “Most importantly, ticks collected from a deer in West Virginia in 2010 and a dog in New Jersey in 2013 were retrospectively identified as H.longicornis.”

Though the research has been made still Dr. Beard’s team stresses upon the fact that, in the United States, no cases of SFTSV and Japanese spotted fever associated with the Asian longhorned tick has been reported up till yet.

In 2011 the Chinese researchers emphasized on the symptoms of this fever and mentioned it in the New England Journal of Medicine. These manifestations include diarrhea, fever, anemia, and vomiting. In many of the cases reported the patients went through multiple organ failure while in other cases 12% the patients died.

The Deputy Director at the Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mr. Ben Beard said, “The full public health and agricultural impact of this tick discovery and spread is unknown.” Mr. Beard is a renowned doctor of philosophy in the field and is a lead writer of the MMWR study.

The unwelcoming entry of the ticks to the United States has been one of the stressful events for the United States health officials.

“In other parts of the world, the Asian longhorned tick can transmit many types of pathogens common in the United States. We are concerned that this tick, which can cause massive infestations on animals, on people, and in the environment, is spreading in the United States.”

The Beard’s team figured out that, “Before 2017, H. longicornis ticks were intercepted at U.S. ports of entry at least 15 times on imported animals and materials.” These were then isolated to prevent the virus from spreading.

As per the report of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 Asian longhorned tick made its presence confirmed in the United States through a non-quarantined sheep in New Jersey.

According to the study in MMWR, 53 cases of Asian longhorned ticks have been reported in the United States from August 2017 to September 2018. As per the CDC, these 53 cases include 72% of the animal species that is 23 from domestic animals, 2 from humans and 13 from wildlife.

While the remaining 28% is of environmental sampling. 15 more samples of Asian longhorned tick were found in grass and other green vegetation during an environmental sampling. Many people seem to think that its spread is only restricted to Eastern states, but it is not!

As per the report, in the total of 3,109 counties or county equivalents in the United States, 546 were studied of nine states, out of which 45 counties that is 8% or 1.4% of the total were attacked by the Asian longhorned ticks. Arkansas is the only state in the East where ticks are resting and are not actively acting as vectors.

The writers of the study claimed that the ways used to observe the spread of the ticks in the United States cannot give you an accurate result. The authors of the study said: “These findings represent sentinels that H.longicornis is present in different U.S states and regions and not a comprehensive assessment of the distribution of H.longicornis in the United States.”

Scientists further added to their statement, “The absence of positive samples from many states and counties might reflect the absence of infestation, the absence of sampling, or failure to recover the tick. Even in states where H.longicornis has been found, the available data does not describe the actual extent or intensity of infestation.”

As per Dr. Beard’s team, some initiative steps are already being taken to restrict the spread of the Asian longhorned tick.

The study team said that: “Many state and federal agencies are developing and disseminating information for stakeholders, including the development of hotlines and some states are identifying ticks submitted by the public.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is currently working in collaboration with the states and federal experts to get a better understanding about the spread of the ticks in the United States. These include quantitative as well as some detailed qualitative assessments of the samples obtained from different states.  The team is working hard for identifying a pathogen-free colony for carrying out further studies in the future.

Some initiative steps one can take to prevent the tick bites includes the use of approved insect repellents, use of 0.5% permethrin in clothing and gear, taking a quick shower after working outside and checking your body and clothes frequently in the full-length mirror to spot ticks if there is any.

 

Emma Colleen

Emma’s professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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