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Longhorned tick found in Missouri, researchers worry about agriculture impact

The longhorned tick, first documented in eastern Russia, has been found in northern Missouri for the first time.

According to a news release from the MU News Bureau, the longhorned tick has cost millions of dollars in agricultural revenue for cattle ranchers. The tick was first found last June in Green County and has now been found this August in Linn County. It causes weight loss in cattle, which creates issues for Missouri’s agricultural industry.

Rosalie Ierardi, an anatomic pathologist at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, was one of the researchers who found the longhorned ticks while conducting anaplasmosis surveillance research. She said the ticks can spread a disease called bovine theileriosis that looks like anaplasmosis.

“Both of these infections can cause anemia,” Ierardi said. “That is a decrease in the number of red blood cells. If cattle are young growing cattle, they won’t be able to grow as well. If they are adult cattle, they may feel sick and not want to eat very much.”

Ierardi said that from a beef production standpoint, the loss of muscle mass in the cattle can directly impact revenue. To prevent the tick from spreading, Ierardi recommends that cattle ranchers speak with their local veterinarians about how to control ticks on the cattle and contact local MU Extension officers for information about property-based management of tick populations.

“They may be able to provide good advice about how to reduce tick populations in pastures or in residential yards,” Ierardi said.

Warmer winters have played a role in the spreading of ticks, but Ierardi said many factors impact the movement of the species.

“It would be an oversimplification to say that that’s the only thing,” Ierardi said. “We know that tick populations are very complex because they depend not only on the weather conditions, but on the kinds of animals in the area the ticks can feed on.”

However, the impacts of these ticks on humans have been insignificant, and the concern is largely surrounding the agricultural industry. Ierardi said activities like livestock movements and migrating birds can cause the ticks to spread. Although the tick can spread diseases to humans, Ierardi said there is currently no evidence that this is happening in North America and that this is why it is important to monitor and locate the tick as it spreads.

To prevent ticks from spreading, Ierardi said awareness is key, and people should avoid places where ticks have been found, and should wear clothing that can prevent tick exposure, as well as use tick repellents. Ierardi also recommended people check themselves and their animals for ticks after spending time outdoors.

Katie Quinn works for Missouri Business Alert. She studied radio journalism and political science at the University of Missouri- Columbia, and previously worked at KBIA.
The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.