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Longhorned tick spotted in Boone County for first time: how it can impact you

BOONE COUNTY — Longhorned ticks have been spotted for the first time in Boone County by researchers from MU's College of Veterinary Medicine.

The tick species was found in Missouri in 2021, making it the 16th state in the country with its presence. The first confirmed report in the United States was in 2017.

The presence of the longhorn tick has already caused the loss of millions of dollars in agricultural revenue; but now it can have a severe impact on farms in mid-Missouri.

Rosalie Ierardi, a clinical instructor at the MU Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (VMDL) and doctoral student at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine, said these ticks have the potential to harm cattle health.

"These longhorned ticks have the potential to transmit theileriosis, a disease that kills red blood cells in cattle," Ierardi said.

Ierardi has been researching ticks for two years now. Last September, she discovered longhorned ticks in northern Missouri.

Theileriosis can make it hard for cattle ranchers to conduct business.

"Symptoms of this infection in cattle could include weight loss, tiredness, weakness, jaundice and pregnancy loss, which all have economic consequences for cattle ranchers looking to sell their calves," Ierardi said.

Longhorned ticks are especially concerning because of how easy it is for them to quickly establish in new areas. While most ticks reproduce traditionally, female longhorned ticks can lay thousands of eggs without the help of a male, with as many as 1,000 eggs laid at a time.

"So technically it only takes one female to establish a whole new population," Ierardi said.

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In the U.S., ticks are responsible for more human disease than any other insect, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

The longhorn tick is smaller than most other tick species in the area. Ierardi described them as reddish brown, and said their bites do not leave any spots or markings like the Lone Star tick or American Dog tick.

While most ticks reproduce traditionally, female Longhorned ticks can lay thousands of eggs without the help of a male, which makes it easier for them to quickly establish in new areas.

Longhorned ticks are capable of transmitting illnesses like Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, one of the most commonly reported tickborne diseases in Missouri.

Although there has yet to be any confirmed reports of this tick species transmitting different illnesses, Ierardi said the lab studies show it's possible.

Fortunately, Ierardi said longhorned ticks are susceptible to all standard tick-control products.

However, even though the presence of the tick species in the U.S. is fairly new, Ierardi said it is still important to be careful and protect yourself.

"People are still learning what diseases this tick may be capable of transmitting," Ierardi said.

Ierardi recommends following the same preventive tips to avoid normal ticks to ensure not being bitten by a longhorned tick.

"Things like tucking your pants into your socks and using a tick repellent, you know, anything with DEET or things like that," she said. "And then just kind of the commonsense things, trying to avoid going off trail into tall grasses or underbrush, that kind of thing."

KOMU 8 is a full-powered NBC affiliate operating as an independent commercial property. As such, KOMU 8 is the only major network affiliate in the United States that acts as a university-owned commercial television station utilizing its newsroom as a working lab for students.
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