Special Reports: Ticks

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  They're tiny pests that can be found all over southwest Georgia. And you don't know you've been bitten by the blood sucking parasites until it's too late.

Ticks have been known to carry Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but now allergists are looking to see if they're causing another nasty and potentially deadly reaction.

They're being studied to see if a simple tick bite can produce an antibody that causes an allergic reaction to veal, pork, and red meat.

Angry red, itchy welts, that can develop into anaphylactic shock, a potentially fatal allergic reaction all caused by combining a bite from this tiny tick and red meat? It sounds like something out of a movie, but it's really happening to people.

"I have allergies so, I'm allergic to a lot of things that grow and insect bites, so that's interesting to me," Denise Dix said.
Doctors are dead serious about this little known new discovery.
"I've seen people react to things that you would think nobody would react to," said Dr. Dennis Robinson Allergy & Asthma Clinics of Georgia.
So what is it about a red meat, tick bite combination that can cause an allergic reaction for some blood types? Allergists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine are trying to find out.
"What they're looking at is the possibility that a reaction from a tick bite is causing production of an antibody to a particular sugar that you can find in red meat," said Dr. Derek Heard of Albany Family Practice.
"It gets to the blood then the antibodies present recognize those antigens and bam, targets it and they have a delayed reaction hours after they've eaten," Robinson said.
Typically the body reacts to an allergen instantly, but in this case the allergy can take hours to kick in and can only be found by taking a blood sample.
"It can be within in a couple of weeks, a couple of months even after having exposure to this tick bite that you can be sitting down eating red meat and then you have an allergic reaction," said Heard.
Climate appears to play a role, and with all the hunting and fishing done in southwest Georgia, it has doctors issuing warnings about the little known allergy, that some may have experienced and not realized.
"They were both men, my age or so and they were in this area and they may have well been hunters," Robinson said.
It's not something allergists have looked for in the past, but now Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills and The University of Virginia is taking a closer look at these creatures notorious for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
"He's now trying to get all the allergists who have patients with delayed reactions to the drug or to mammalian meats to send blood to him," Robinson said.
Right now doctors say there's no cure other than avoiding red meat and trying to be mindful, should you fall victim to a tick.

Dr. Platts Mills has collected data on more than 300 patients across the county and abroad. While he's confident ticks cause the allergy, he's not sure they're the only cause. Similar finds were made in India and Australia.

Here's more information--

How to Protect Yourself and Pet From Fleas and Ticks (eHow)

Protect yourself from tick-borne diseases (CDC)

Tick Tips (Northwestern)

CDC Features - Stop Ticks (CDC)

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