Two exotic species of ticks were first discovered in Rhode Island, state officials announced Monday.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said both Asian and Eurasian ticks were discovered on Block Island as part of a ten-year tick study on the island.
“It has been confirmed by the DNA and morphological characteristics that these are ticks not previously found in Rhode Island,” the agency said.
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The ticks were discovered by Danielle M. Tufts, a former associate researcher at Columbia University.
The tufts identified the tick species Haemaphysalis longicornis, also known as the Asian tick, and Haemaphysalis punctata during the tick study on Block Island this summer.
Ticks were initially thought to be native, but upon further examination it turned out that they were exotic species.
The Asian tick was first detected in the United States in 201
“The Asian long-horned tick is considered a serious threat to livestock in Australia and New Zealand, where it is invasive,” the agency said Monday. “It poses a risk to New England cattle because it can attach to various warm-blooded animals for food. If too many ticks attach to an animal, the loss of blood can kill the animal.”
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In 2018, a study warned that the tick could spread across much of the eastern United States and parts of the Midwest, as well as a small section of the Pacific Northwest.
H. punctata, known as the “red sheep tick”, is native to the southern half of Europe as well as to England and parts of the North African coast.
“The discovery on Block Island is remarkable because this mint is not known to exist outside its range,” state officials said.
Both types of ticks can transmit a “variety of diseases” to humans and animals, however, only one disease has been found in these ticks in the United States.
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Officials recommend the following guidelines for preventing ticks:
- Apply tick repellent to exposed skin and clothing.
- Spray products containing permethrin on outer clothing, including shoes. Permethrin should not be used directly on the skin.
- Check clothing and exposed skin before moving from one area to another.
- Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Get body checks immediately after returning from outdoor activities in tick-infested areas.
“If ticks are found, remove them using fine-tipped tweezers, wash the affected area with soap and water, and disinfect the bite site,” the agency said. “To protect hunting dogs, hunters should check with their veterinarian for appropriate topical or systemic tick control treatment for their dog.”