Beyond the Bite: Tick-Born Meat Allergies

Each year 30 thousand people are officially diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 11:11 AM EDT
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ORLANDO, FL (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Each year 30 thousand people are officially diagnosed with Lyme disease. But the CDC reports that in fact, almost a half a million people may get sick from ticks each year  in the United States. Lyme disease is just one of dozens of diseases ticks carry—including one that could make you allergic to meat.

Some tick-borne diseases include Babesiosis (BUH-bee-zee-oh-sis), Colorado tick fever, Heartland virus, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tick-borne relapsing fever and now doctors believe they can even cause food allergies.

Dr. Robert Valet, an allergist and immunologist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, explains how “patients become sensitized by the tick bite and then later when they eat red meat can have an allergic reaction.”

Alpha-gal syndrome is a reaction to sugar found in red meat and dairy. It’s caused by the bite of a lone star tick, and Dr. Valet says that its impact is spreading across the country -- “The most prevalent areas appear to be Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. But this tick is distributed really through much of the eastern seaboard and really out into the Midwest.”

The CDC reports Alpha-gal syndrome is now the tenth most common food allergy in the U.S. It affects up to 450 thousand people by making them allergic to beef, pork, lamb, and dairy products. There’s no cure, and the effect of a simple tick bite can last a lifetime. Protecting yourself is crucial. Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts when you’re outside in wooded areas. Also, check yourself for ticks when you come back inside.

Now unfortunately, getting a diagnosis for Alpha-gal syndrome can be difficult as many doctors are not aware of it. A study published by the CDC surveyed 15 hundred doctors and nurses and 42 percent had never heard of it.