A bite from the aggressive Lone Star tick could do more than give you an irritable rash — it could potentially induce a dangerous meat allergy.
The tick, widely distributed in the southeastern and eastern United States, is spreading to even more areas, including Minnesota, New Hampshire and Long Island, New York, and is making people allergic to just a single bite of meat.
According to Wired.com, something in the tick bite makes people sensitive to the sugar compound alpha-galactose, or alpha-gal, found in meat from mammals.
And unlike most allergies, which are dependent on a mix of genetic and environmental factors, alpha-gal allergies seem to affect anyone and everyone, regardless of genetic makeup, Wired reported.
Some bite victims will experience a hive-like rash or a dangerous anaphylactic reaction about four hours after eating meat.
Such allergies are still incredibly rare and the government hasn’t issued any health warnings yet, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the distribution, range and abundance of the Lone Star tick has increased steadily in the past 20 to 30 years.
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“We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northwards and westward and cause more problems than they’re already causing,” Ronald Staff, allergist and clinical professor of medicine, told Business Insider.
Saff said he's now seeing patients every week who have been bitten by ticks and developed the meat allergy.
The best thing to do while scientists continue research to track and understand the species is to try to prevent tick bites overall.
The CDC recommends avoiding tick habitats, using insect repellents with DEET or permethrin and actively checking for ticks after you’ve been outdoors.