Following reports from New Jersey last year and Virginia and West Virginia more recently, The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that researchers have confirmed the presence of the Longhorned tick (Haemaphysalis longicornis) in Benton County, Arkansas.
The tick, which is native to East Asia, is known to carry and transmit both viral and bacterial tickborne diseases, thus residents should exercise the same precautions they would with the state’s existing tick population.
According to extension entomologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Kelly Loftin, “I think the big concern right now is the unknown. We don’t know how it arrived in Arkansas, or how widespread it is. The Longhorned is a big pest to cattle in some parts of the world, so of course that’s a concern here, along with the viral and bacterial pathogens it may transmit.”
Loftin said there are a number of preventive measures concerned residents should take whenever exposure to ticks is likely. These include bodily protective measures, such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, tucking pants into socks, and applying insect repellent to both skin and clothes. Try to inspect yourself for ticks thoroughly as soon as possible after potential exposure.
Residents should maintain an effective tick control program on pets that are allowed outdoors. Keep piles of wood or rubbish should be kept far away from animals and homes, as they tend to serve as shelter or habitats for rodents, which can carry ticks, insects and disease.
Finally, if you discover an unusual tick on yourself or animal, or find large numbers of ticks on an animal, don’t panic. Loftin advises livestock producers and other residents to collect any discovered ticks and contact their local Cooperative Extension Service office, the Arkansas Agriculture Department or the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for further instruction.