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Invasive tick is 'here to stay,' and here's where it could spread next

By Rachael Rettner
December 19, 2018, 2:07:10 PM EST

An invasive tick species, new to the U.S., has already popped up in nine states, and a new study suggests that the species could spread much further.

This tick, called the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis), is native to Asia and was first identified in the U.S. in 2017, when it was found on a sheep in New Jersey. Since then, the tick has been detected in eight other states: New York, Virginia, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But the new study, published today (Dec. 13) in the Journal of Medical Entomology, suggests that the tick could spread to much of the eastern U.S. and parts of the Midwest, as well as a small section of the Pacific Northwest.

tick map

A map showing the potential range of the Asian longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) in North America, according to a new study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.Credit: Ilia Rochlin, Ph.D., Rutgers University Center for Vector Biology

Researchers used climate data from the tick's native habitat, which includes parts of China, Japan and Korea, to predict where the tick could spread in North America. Then, they created a statistical model to determine habitats that were likely suitable for the tick.

The study found that much of the eastern U.S. coast was suitable for the longhorned tick, with areas as far north as Maine and as far south as northern Florida predicted to be at least moderately suitable. The tick could also appear in Gulf Coast states as far west as Louisiana, as well as in Midwest and southeastern states, including Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. A small section of the Washington, Oregon and Northern California coast was also found to be highly suitable for H. longicornis, the study found.

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