No More Hamburgers
All because of a single tick bite
You’ve heard of a deer tick and a dog tick. You’ve heard of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but have you heard of the lone star tick and an allergy to mammal meat? Tick-born illness is always a fear after a tick bite, but who would have thought that a tick could cause an allergy to some of your favorite foods? Get bit by a lone star tick and you could life the rest of your life unable to eat hamburgers, pork chops, barbeque, hot dogs, or steaks.
Once a rare occurrence, the numbers of meat allergies are increasing as lone star tick populations spread. Here’s what you need to know about the lone star tick and how to protect you and your family from its bite.
On the back of the female lone star tick is a white patch. Whoever named the lone star tick must have thought the white spot looked like a star or the shape of the state of Texas. Male lone star ticks have white markings along the edges of their backs.
You’ll find this type of tick across the eastern, southeastern, central, and central southern United States. Over the past 30 yeas the number of lone star ticks has increased due to rising temperatures. Lone star ticks like the edges of densely wooded areas or thick undergrowth near where animals hang out.
Compared to other tick species, the lone star tick is aggressive and known to travel long distances in search of a host. Most active April through late August, they typically feed on deer, raccoons, birds, coyote, squirrel, cattle, dogs, and cats. However, if you step near one, they’ll readily get a meal from you, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the lone star tick does not transmit Lyme disease but may transmit other potentially deadly diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, or human monocytic ehrlichiosis. Most bites, however, only cause southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), a circular rash, headache, fatigue, fever, and joint or muscle pain. See your doctor if you experience any illness within 30 days of a tick bite. A round of oral antibiotics are generally given to treat symptoms.
A Meat Allergy
Many people are now afraid of the possibility of developing an allergy to mammal meat following a lone star tick bite. That’s because a single bite from this aggressive tick may render your body unable to recognize a carbohydrate found in mammal cell membranes called galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose (alpha-gal). This allergy to meat sets off an immune response whenever alpha-gal is ingested.
Eat a steak for dinner and you’ll likely wake in the night with hives, itching, vomiting, and diarrhea. In rare cases, anaphylaxis may occur. Diagnosis may be difficult since the allergy may not appear for days, weeks, or months after a tick bite.
Making the condition worst is that there is no treatment. Currently, the only way to deal with alpha-gal syndrome is to avoid eating any type of meat. Poultry and seafood are perfectly safe, but it may take years for your body to be able to handle meat again, and it’s possible that you may never be able to eat meat again.
The best way to avoid tick-borne illness of any sort is to avoid a tick bite. If possible, stay away from wooded areas, tall grasses, or thick underbrush. Any time you are near such places, be sure to wear insect repellant that contains DEET or permethrin. Wearing long pants and high socks is also a good idea. After being outdoors, do a full-body check for ticks. Prompt removal is key to protecting yourself from illness.
In the event you find a tick on your body, pay close attention to your health for 30 days afterward. See your doctor for any new or unusual symptoms.
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