News broke last month that a large population of potentially deadly foreign ticks was discovered in New Jersey raising concern on the East coast and throughout the US. The East Asian tick, sometimes called the longhorn or brush tick, was discovered by a farmer in Hunterdon County NJ on April 24th. One of the farmer’s sheep was covered in the foreign tick and after the farmer realized he did not recognize what type of tick it was the authorities were notified. The authorities identified the mystery tick as the East Asian tick and then began taking steps to assess the extent to which the creepy crawly had spread and more importantly if the ticks were carriers of the deadly virus that causes SFTS.
The East Asian tick is known for spreading SFTS (Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia syndrome) in countries throughout East Asia and the infection has developed a large body count since its emergence in 2009.  Symptoms of SFTS include fever, fatigue, chills, headache, nausea, muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, lymph node disease and can result in death. In 2009 the infection killed a staggering 30% of those infected in China and by 2013 it had spread to Japan and Korea were the death toll was greater than one-third of those infected. Since that time the number of reported cases have increased yearly but, due to increased ability to identify and treat the condition, the percent who die after contracting the deadly disease has been mitigated.  In 2016 the percentage had dropped to 3% in China, 8% in Japan, and was down to 20% in South Korea from a terrifying 47% in 2013. Though these numbers are significantly lower now that more is known about the virus and how it spreads, they are still scary and the number of confirmed cases in these continues to increase every year with no cure or vaccine. With that information in mind officials in New Jersey took the emergence of this tick very seriously.
They treated the sheep and the surrounding area to kill any ticks and began gathering samples from local wildlife to determine how far the ticks may have spread. Unfortunately, the East Asian tick was found on deer in the area and ticks were also discovered in Watchung Reservation 40 miles away but fortunately, no human bites have been reported and none of the ticks have tested positive for SFTS. Both areas are being monitored and the authorities are developing strategies for continuing control of the situation. Hopefully, the East Asian tick can be contained and even eradicated, it is still unknown how the tick was able to migrate to the area.