Could you image a tiny bite from a creature smaller than a penny could suddenly make you allergic to meat? It sounds like something out of a horror movie, and yet, it exists. And it's called the Lone Star tick. One bite from a Lone Star tick and you could be saying sayonara to not only red meat, but mammal products as well.
Let's take a look at what you need to know about this tick and its terrifying red meat allergy that comes along with it.
What Is the Lone Star Tick
The Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) is named after the white dot on its back, which is said to resemble the state of Texas. Once commonly found in the southeast, its range and abundance has increased over the past 20 years in the United States due to warming weather and increased populations of white-tailed deer throughout the eastern USA. The ticks can now be found from Texas to Florida to Maine and throughout the midwest. They are three-host ticks, meaning that they feed on humans and other animals during all three stages of their life cycle.
What Causes the Allergy
The meat allergy is believed to be caused by a sugar compound found in mammals known as alpha-gal. Scientist believe that the alpha-gal is picked up by the tick after it feeds on deer. It then transfers it to its human host. That's when trouble strikes. The body sees it as a foreign invader and starts attacking it, causing an allergic reaction.
What are the Bite Symptoms
The allergic reaction to the bite doesn't occur instantly like other food allergies. It can take anywhere from 3 to 12 hours. When bitten, a small red rash with a variety of symptoms known as southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) will occur. Headache, fatigue, fever, muscle pains, respiratory problems, increased heart rate, and swollen mouth are just a few. In the worst case scenario, a Lone Star Tick bite can cause life threatening anaphylatic shock. It should be noted, however, that not all bites will result in an infection.
Is the Meat Allergy Permanent
According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, scientist don't know how long the allergy lasts. It's possible for sensitivity to decline by avoiding meat, but there have been no published cases showing a complete loss of allergy. In that case, it's probably best to avoid meat.
What About Lyme Disease
Finally, a bit of good news. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC, the Lone Star tick is not associated with Lyme disease. This tick-borne disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Tick bites from the Western blacklegged and the Eastern blacklegged tick species - aka deer tick - that are infected with the bacteria cause the disease.
A meat lovers nightmare, the Lone Star Tick can cause serious problems. Take precautions when you're out during tick season and develop routine tick checks. I'm no doctor, but I can tell you if you love mammalian meat, you'll want to steer clear from this blood-sucker. Of course if you're pescatarian, have no fear because fish don't have alpha-gal so you can gobble fish tacos until your heart's content.
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