Being bitten by a Lone Star tick can cause you to develop an allergy to red meat, even if it’s something you’ve eaten for your entire life.
Three weeks after being bitten by the tick close to her home in Severna Park, Maryland, Laura Stirling, who had frequently eaten red meat throughout her life, woke up in the middle of the night “covered in hives,” reported NPR. Hours earlier, she had eaten an Italian-style pork sausage hours earlier at dinner.
Once an allergist performed a blood test on the 51-year-old realtor, she was told to avoid all red meat products.
Dr. Scott Commins, who was one of the first physicians to recognize the link between red meat allergies and Lone Star tick bites, went on to discuss the growing severity with NPR.
Although 10 years ago, he said there were just a few dozen known cases, today he said doctors are “confident the number is over 5,000 [cases], and that’s in the U.S. alone.”
He also added that while the ticks are most frequently found in the Southeast portion of the United States, “the range of the tick is expanding.”
According to the American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, “this specific allergy is related to a carbohydrate called alpha-gal and is best diagnosed with a blood test,” adding that it can often take hours after eating red meat products before “the appearance of an allergic reaction.”
The Center for Disease Control also recently announced that reported illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled across the United States, with nine new germs from mosquitoes and ticks being introduced into the country over the past 13 years.
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As the range of the ticks are expanding, they are now being found in states like Maine and Oklahoma.
“We do get them here occasionally in the state,” Griffin Dill, pest management specialist for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, told BDN, before adding that authoroties aren’t sure “whether they were bit by a lone star tick here in Maine or if it was travel-related.”
Dill went on to call the Lone Star ticks “more of an aggressive species,” saying that while “the deer and dog tick are relatively passive … lone star ticks will actually move in response to stimuli. If they sense carbon dioxide or movement, that sort of thing, they’ll actually travel in that direction.”
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While the Lone Star tick — named for their distinctive “lone” dot marking — has not been found everywhere in the United States, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Ronald Saff, an allergist from Tallahassee, Florida, shared that “as the U.S. gets warmer, we anticipate that the tick will migrate to other states.”
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