A scientist is encouraging continued caution and diligence among Connecticut residents following the discovery of a population of the Asian longhorned tick in Fairfield County.

“The identification of an established population of the Asian longhorned tick in Connecticut highlights the challenge and risk to human and animal health in the state, though this risk is not limited to Connecticut,” said Goudarz Molaei, a research scientist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven and director of the Passive Tick Surveillance and Testing Program, in a statement. “The potential is high for invasive ticks capable of transmitting pathogens of human and veterinary concern to become further established in new areas as environments continue to change.”

The Asian longhorned tick, Haemaphysalis longicornis, is native to the Korean Peninsula, Japan and eastern regions of Russia and China, but was first discovered in the U.S. on a farm in New Jersey in 2017.

Molaei told the New Haven Register that the traditional protocols for tick safety remain the same: covering as much skin as possible with light-colored clothing to better detect the dark-colored ticks, and doing a diligent check within two to three hours of outdoor activity. Molaei said ticks also may use domestic pets as hosts before moving onto humans.

Traditionally, guidance around ticks was to avoid tall grass, but Molaei said residents must be diligent in all scenarios.“We have ticks pretty much throughout the state in any habitat you can imagine, even in the coastal regions with sparse vegetation maybe 10 to 20 meters from water,” he said.Molaei said it is important that, should a tick be removed, it be transported to a local health department or a physician’s office so the tick can be transported to the CAES for testing.

“It’s important for us to first know what kind of tick has bit us and if they’ve been on us for an extended period and whether the tick needs to be tested to determine the infection status,” he said.According to CAES, Asian longhorned ticks are a vector for the viral agent of severe fever with thrombocytopenia — or lowered platelets in the blood — in humans. Asian longhorned ticks are reddish-brown and adult females are 2.7 mm to 3.4 mm long and 1.4 to 2.0 mm wide.