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11 tick species confirmed in New Jersey

A team led by Rutgers University professors has published a list of tick species confirmed to be present in New Jersey, and has recommended tick surveillance across the state.

Researchers reviewed scientific literature, government documents, and existing tick collections in museums and other repositories, and determined that the verifiable hard tick fauna in the state includes nine species indigenous to North America and two invasive species, the brown dog tick and the recently identified Asian longhorned tick.

The researchers summarized New Jersey collection details, and reviewed the known public health issues, veterinary importance and available information on seasonality for each species. They also looked at seven additional species that may be present in the state or become established in the future, but whose presence is not currently confirmed in New Jersey. They also compared their list of ticks in New Jersey with those from neighboring states, including Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland, and examined the likelihood and public health consequences of additional hard tick species becoming established in New Jersey.

“Our hope is that this work will aid in the development of standardized hard tick surveillance across New Jersey, thus facilitating more accurate assessments of tick-borne disease risk as well as the development of strategies to minimize such risk statewide,” wrote the authors in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

“A carefully tailored statewide tick surveillance program could provide basic but necessary information on which tick species are present, their principal hosts and any pathogens that they may carry and transmit. With this information in hand, public health professionals and physicians would be better able to inform and protect the public from tick-borne diseases,” the authors wrote.

Native ticks in New Jersey include the lone star tick, winter tick, American dog tick, rabbit tick, blacklegged tick, and four species – Ixodes brunneus, Ixodes cookei, Ixodes dentatus and Ixodes texanus – that don’t have common names since they are closely associated with wildlife and are rarely removed from humans.

Five other species of ticks have been reported in the Garden State, but there are no verified specimens in collections. These species have been found in states within 186 miles of New Jersey, and may be confirmed here in the future. Two other species, including the Gulf Coast tick, are expanding their range northward. The researchers predict they may eventually arrive in New Jersey.

“As far as we know, no other state in the Northeast has done the ‘due diligence’ of tracking down archived specimens of each tick species collected in the state,” said senior author Dina Fonseca, a professor and director of the Center for Vector Biology in the Department Entomology at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

Tick-borne pathogens can be passed to humans through the bite of infected ticks. Ticks can be infected with bacteria, viruses, or parasites. Some of the most common tick-borne diseases in the United States include: Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, anaplasmosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Lyme Disease is the most commonly reported tick-borne disease in the United States. In 2010, more than 22,500 confirmed cases and 7,500 probably cases were reported to the CDC.

For more information on ticks in New Jersey, visit the Center for Vector Biology and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station.