Why a new tick in NJ could be part of a bigger problem

Visitors to and residents of New Jersey's shores (as well as more inland regions of the Garden State), beware! A new and potentially deadly pestilence threatens. No, no, calm down now, it's not another reboot of Jersey Shore. As far as we know, the populace is safe from the menace of Snooki, JWoww, The Situation, and the rest, as they've all gone wherever reality show stars go once their show is over. No, we're talking about a different kind of bloodsucker: a tick.

Yes, New Jersey already had ticks, as numerous pets and unhappy campers can attest. But you can never have too many tick species — or rather, you can, since one species is more than enough, thank you very much. And yet, here it comes, the Carios kelleyi, aka bat tick. This tick, as the name implies, is known to infect bats (the hang upside-down, sleep-in-the-day kind, not Louisville Sluggers), another species that, as Gizmodo points out, are notorious disease carriers in and of themselves.

New Jersey's not the only place with a problem

These bat ticks aren't just a Jersey thing, as they've been found in 29 U.S. states. So why raise the alarm because they're found in New Jersey now? According to a study led by researchers from Rutgers University (via Science Daily), "finding [these ticks] on New Jersey bats was an unusual event that prompted bat specialists to contact us. Maybe these ticks are becoming more common." As to what is so unusual about this bat tick, it's of the soft-bodied variety as opposed to the hard-bodied ticks that we're more familiar with such as the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

So what does this mean, having a new kind of tick on the loose? While the specific health risks associated with bat ticks are unknown, Rutgers Center for Vector Biology doctoral student James L. Occi, lead author of the tick study, warns, "All ticks feed on blood and may transmit pathogens (disease-causing microbes) during feeding." He also said, "We need to be aware that if you remove bats from your belfry, attic or elsewhere indoors, ticks that fed on those bats may stay behind and come looking for a new source of blood." Brr! Sounds like a horror movie, but it's fact, not fiction. 

According to Occi, there have been several incidents of these bat ticks biting people. Yeesh, as if we needed one more reason to hide under the bed. Could someone just call off the plagues, already?