Longhorn tick makes its way from Asia

During the past year, a new tick has been added to our product line.

The longhorn tick, or cattle tick, has come to America from Asia, probably via some infested animals. This year it has been found in New York, Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas — after being found in New Jersey originally last year. It was hoped that it would not survive the winter, but this tick actually buries itself into the ground when it gets cold, which is unlike other ticks. Also, unlike most other ticks, it has an asexual reproductive process called parthenogenesis, which means instead of it being a two-year reproduction cycle it is six months long for the longhorn. Not having to find a mate gives the female freedom to feed, travel and reproduce — it is quite a life. It is capable of carrying Lyme disease, and in Asia it transmitted a potentially deadly virus that causes a severe fever syndrome. They prey on anything, but they have been known to get so infested on cattle and other animals, that they kill them by draining all the blood.

Although longhorn sounds like it might be a relative of another tick that is from the Southwest, the lone star tick, or turkey tick, it isn’t. The lone star is the one with a star on its body and transmits STARI, which has rash symptoms similar to Lyme disease, but it is not nearly as debilitating. All this is to say, that it is getting near hunting season; the ticks are climbing to the top of the grass or hanging from limbs, awaiting some unsuspecting meal to wander by. Check yourself carefully when coming out of the weeds.

I noted that Chemours has said it will provide filtration devices to homes impacted by high levels of GenX at no cost to the owners. One should remember that the Department of Environmental Quality has not signed off on this being a permanent solution. There are still questions about how long they will work and some have questioned where the contaminants will be deposited once they have been filtered out. The DEQ is pushing, as should the residents who did nothing to cause this problem, for public water to be supplied to the area. Chemours is balking at those costs and is really just offering a cost-saving solution. I would think hard before accepting the filters.

Testing of people who were exposed to the contaminants has begun in Bladen and Cumberland counties by local, state and federal health authorities. As a reminder, the homes exceeding the safe health level in Robeson County have been converted over to public water, which is really the solution all should have.

By Bill Smith

Contributing columnist

Bill Smith is director of the Robeson County Department of Health.