USDA specialists have confirmed that ticks intercepted at the Philadelphia International Airport last month were Anatolian brown ticks (Rhipicephalus bursa), a European species known to transmit diseases in cattle and other livestock.
U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists discovered the ticks on untanned goat hides that a passenger brought from Macedonia and Greece, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) news release.
According to the Free Medical Dictionary, Rhipicephalus bursa transmits Babesia, Theileria, Anaplasma, Rickettsia and Coxiella species to cattle and other livestock. The DHS release also notes that Macedonia is a country that currently is affected by foot and mouth disease.
The passenger, arriving on a flight from Rome, reported carrying the hides. CBP agriculture specialists inspected the hides and found they were heavily infested with both live and dead ticks. Officials subsequently destroyed the hides.
The Anatolian brown tick is native to Europe and the Middle East and is most common in the Mediterranean region.
The tick has been intercepted in U.S. airports three times before, according to the USDA. Back in 1966 inspectors found the ticks on a live horse arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport from Italy. In 1995 trophy hides of Spanish goats arriving in Minneapolis-St. Paul were found to harbor the ticks, and 2010, additional tick-infested big-game hides from Spain arrived at JFK.
“Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take their job of detecting dangerous insect pests very seriously, and any introduction of potential animal disease to the U.S. livestock industry is of grave concern to us,” said Tarance Drafts, Acting CBP Port Director for the Port of Philadelphia. “This is an excellent example of our agriculture specialists performing a thorough inspection and finding a new potential threat to U.S. agriculture.”