Tick spreading in the US gives people meat allergies 

June 21, 2017
  • By Fiza Pirani, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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.

» RELATED: How to prevent, find and get rid of ticks this summer 

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.

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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.

A close-up of an adult female deer tick (left), Lone Star tick (middle) and dog tick (right). The Lone Star tick received its name from the pronounced white dot in the center of the adult female’s back. (Photo By Getty Images) Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals

Some bite victims will experience a hive-like rash or a dangerous anaphylactic reaction about four hours after eating meat. 

» RELATED: WATCH: Young girl left temporarily paralyzed illustrates dangers of tick bites

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.

» RELATED: Rare tick-borne illness worries some medical professionals 
“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.

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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.

» RELATED: Woman loses arms, legs after tick bite 

The CDC recommends avoiding tick habitats, using insect repellents with DEET or permethrin and actively checking for ticks after you’ve been outdoors.

Click here to read more on tick prevention and removal tips.

"This map shows the extent of established Amblyomma americanum tick populations, commonly known as Lone Star ticks. However, tick abundance within this area varies locally. The map does not represent the risk of contracting any specific tickborne illness." - CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention