Potentially dangerous exotic tick spreading in New Jersey

An exotic tick that can essentially clone itself is spreading in New Jersey and could be extremely dangerous. The tick is not from the United States originally and experts are worried since it survived the winter that it's here to stay.

The East Asian tick, also known as the Longhorned tick, was first found in Hunterdon County and has now been found in Union County.

The tick is a non-descript, brown colored tick with both males and females able to feed, however, the invasive form is when females show the ability to produce eggs without the use of a male, as found in this case. Adult females can lay between 800-2,000 eggs in the soil in mid-summer with larvae being found in late summer-early Fall.

Agriculture officials say it is a mystery how the tick arrived in New Jersey. Local, state and federal animal health and wildlife officials, as well as Rutgers University - Center for Vector Biology are working together in an effort to contain its spread. Surveillance in wildlife and livestock species will continue throughout the year.

Like deer ticks, the nymphs of the Longhorned tick are very small (resembling tiny spiders) and can easily go unnoticed on animals and people. This tick is known to infest deer and a wide range of other hosts. Therefore, it has the potential to infect multiple North American wildlife species.

The latest tick was found at the Watchung Reservation which in the area of Mountainside and Scotch Plains. The tick was found about 40 miles from the original tick discovery on a Hunterdon County farm.

The tick is found in East Asia, New Zealand and Australia and is the most widespread tick species on wild and domestic animals in Japan. It is a serious pest to livestock including cattle, horses, farmed deer, sheep and goats in its native range and in other parts of the world where it has been introduced, as well as wildlife, pets and humans.

They tend to be found in tall grasses, such as meadows and paddocks, and are known to survive harsh winters.

If you see any unusual tick on your pets or farm animals call the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400. See a new looking tick on wildlife? Call the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau or Wildlife Management at 908-637-4173, ext. 120.

Persons with questions about tickborne illness in humans can contact their local health department (http://localhealth.nj.gov) or the New Jersey Department of Health at 609-826-5964. Tests on the exotic tick identified in Hunterdon County in November failed to reveal any tickborne diseases.

According to the CDC, the number of people getting sick from ticks, mosquitos and fleas tripled over the past 12 years.

"It has happened and it's alarmingly more common than it should be," Socarras said.