Beware. If you go for a hike in the woods, you could bring home a new tick disease that has hospitalized victims in Missouri. Discovered by researchers from Missouri Western State University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new disease is carried by lone star ticks.
Named the Heartland Virus, the new tick virus travels through the victim’s blood. Ticks become infected as larvae when they feed on virus-infected birds and animals. When larvae mature into adults they can transmit the virus to humans. The greatest risk of infection occurs in the spring and early summer. While New York and New Jersey are home to several tick species, lone star ticks are more likely to attack humans.
Distinguish by a single white dot, or “lone star,” on the female’s back, lone star ticks are reddish brown with flat, oval bodies. Small, just 1/6 to 1/4 inch long before feeding, they double in size when engorged. Previously relegated to southern states, the lone star tick has gradually expanded its territory. It is now found throughout the Midwest and in coastal regions along the Eastern Seaboard as far north as Maine. All of New Jersey and the southern half of New York State are affected by this new threat. Because these ticks are sensitive to sunlight they are typically found hiding in low-growing vegetation in shady, wooded areas.