Blood Sucking Ticks Blamed for the Death of Five Cows

North Carolina officials blamed the deaths of five cows on an infestation of Asian longhorned ticks.
Donna Fuscaldo
Asian longhorned ticksCDC

Ticks caused the death of five cows in North Carolina, with all of the casualties linked to acute anemia because of tick infestations. 

In a letter warning livestock and pet owners to be vigilant in their measures to prevent ticks, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services said these exotic blood sucking ticks are infesting animals causing severe harm in some cases. 


Officials in North Carolina said one of the young bulls brought for testing at its Northwestern Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab had more than 1,000 ticks on it. The landowner lost four other cattle due to the same issue during 2018.

Testing confirmed the ticks were Asian longhorned ticks. The Asian longhorned tick is an exotic tick hailing out of East Asian. The ticks were reported for the first time in the U.S. in 2017.  Since then 67 counties in the U.S. have confirmed the presence of Asian longhorned tick populations. The cow deaths were in Surry County which is at the border with Virginia. 

“This is the fourth confirmed case in North Carolina since 2018, and the first case reported this year. Previous cases were found in Polk, Rutherford, and Davidson counties," North Carolina State Veterinarian Doug Meckes said in the letter. 

Asian Longhorned Tick a Serious Pest

The Asian longhorned tick is a "serious pest" of livestock in East Asia but its not clear what it means to those in the U.S. It is known to be an aggressive biter and often builds massive infestations on animals. The infestations cause stress, reduce growth and production and blood loss that can lead to death. Even more worrisome, the tick can reproduce without a male with a single fed female tick able to create a localized population, Meckes said. 

While it's unclear what impact the Asian longhorned tick will have on humans in the U.S. there are concerns they will continue to suck the life out of animals and eventually spread diseases to humans. North Carolina officials said the Asian longhorned tick hasn't been linked to any human infections in the U.S. so far, but the state is working to understand its distribution and monitor for any diseases the ticks may carry. 

Tick Bites Outside U.S. Have Caused Human Diseases

According to the Center for Disease Control in other countries bites from this type of tick can make people as well as animals seriously sick. For instance, in China and South Korea, the tick has been blamed for spreading Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus or SFTSV. The tick-borne disease can cause hemorrhagic fever. 

As of June longhorned ticks have been found in several states in the U.S. including Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, and Virginia. So far there have been no harmful germs found in the ticks collected in the U.S. that can infect humans. 

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