Experts: Bat ticks could pose health risks to people and pets in New Jersey
There is a new addition to the list of New Jersey ticks, and some experts say that the insects could pose health risks to people and pets in the Garden State. According to a Rutgers University-led study, the "bat tick" has been found in New Jersey for the first time.
“It started out as a hobby, and then I said, ‘Let’s see if we have these ticks around here,” says Rutgers doctoral student Jim Occi.
Occi says that this is the first live soft tick found in the state.
"The hard ticks have a hard shell on them and the soft ticks are very leathery and they're crinkled because they have to fill up with blood and gorge quickly,” he says.
This soft tick species, a parasite of bats, is known to be in 29 states.
"We figured it was here but we had to look and the only way to look for a bat tick is to find a bat,” Occi says.
The soft tick species was confirmed in New Jersey as larvae collected from big brown bats in Mercer and Sussex counties.
“It does carry a few pathogens. It can, but extremely rarely bites people,” says Occi.
Occi says that the bat tick prefers to feed on bats.
"When people have been bitten by this bat tick it's when they have bats in their house and they eradicate the bats. They shut off their entrance so the bats can't get back in, the ticks need to feed and they try and feed on what's ever around."
And although the public health risk remains unknown, Occi says that anyone who is bitten by the tick should save it.
“Put it in some alcohol, record the date that you found it and save it and keep an eye on the bite mark and any constitutional symptoms like fever headache and rash,” he says.
Occi says he will next test the bat ticks for potential pathogens.