An exotic tick species that somehow made its way to New Jersey may now be here for good.

The East Asian tick, also known as the Longhorned tick or bush tick, survived the winter and has possibly become established in the Garden State, according to the state Department of Agriculture.

The species was discovered last summer on a sheep in Hunterdon County. Before then, it had not been known to exist in the United States. How the species arrived in New Jersey is still a mystery.

Steps were taken to eradicate the tick from the property, but follow-up surveillance in April confirmed the tick's presence in the same area. Officials are working together once again to eliminate the pest and contain its spread.

"So far we only have found this tick in this one area where this sheep lived," Manoel Tamassia, director of the Department's Division of Animal Health, told New Jersey 101.5.

But state and federal employees will be working to determine if the tick has spread to new areas, and to educate the public about prevention.

Tests run on the tick and sheep last fall failed to find any tickborne diseases. The East Asian tick has the potential to spread bacterial and viral diseases to both humans and animals, as it's done in other parts of the world.

"We can not assume that they're not going to transmit diseases here," Tamassia said.

Officials advise residents to contact the state veterinarian at 609-671-6400 if unusual ticks are detected in their livestock. Unusual ticks detected in wildlife should be reported to the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Wildlife Management at 609-984-6295 or the Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics at 908-637-4173, ext. 120.

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