Bay Area

Potentially dangerous species of tick found in US has Bay Area concerned

SAN MATEO COUNTY (KRON) - For the first time, a potentially dangerous species of tick has been found in the U.S.

The longhorn tick is native to Asia but has now been spotted on the East Coast. 

As far as anyone knows, the parasites have not yet reached California but they are still causing concern here in the Bay Area. 

Ticks carry diseases like Lyme disease but now there may be a new danger on the horizon. 

The Asian longhorned tick, seen in this photograph by the CDC, is native to Asia but has now been found in 8 states in the U.S., all on the East Coast. 

The parasite feeds on blood from mammals and birds and can reproduce rapidly. 

The tick is also capable of carrying diseases, but so far no human illnesses, such as Lyme disease, have been found in longhorned ticks in the U.S. 

Although the ticks so far are only on the East Coast, the parasite has caught the attention of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation in Portola Valley.

Joe Ellis is the director of education and outreach. 

"Obviously, we are monitoring this very carefully because we monitor tick ecology across the country," Ellis said. 

She says that if human disease were to be found in longhorned ticks, the infections could spread rapidly. 

Only a few years ago, Lyme disease was considered an East Coast problem, but the illness is now found in every county of the Bay Area. 

"It's a constantly moving and changing situation. We know that diseases that are potentially dangerous to humans are moving through across the country." 

For now, the new ticks seem to pose more of a danger to animals than people. 

The more immediate danger are the ticks that are already here, such as black-legged ticks. 

Ellis says that about 20 percent of the black-legged ticks in the Bay Area carry some sort of disease that can be passed to people. 

She advises everyone to take some common sense precautions to avoid being infected. 

"Wear pants. Tuck your socks into pants. Long sleeves. Hats. Protect yourselves," she said. 

The Lyme Foundation also recommends using insect repellent to keep ticks away. 

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