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Blog | June 2012

Lone Star Ticks Causing Meat Allergies

Ticks have been a major player in the news this year. The media has been warning viewers and readers to protect themselves from ticks in a year that is bringing out more and more ticks. While we’ve known that ticks can cause Lyme disease and other diseases, a new study is showing that the Lone Star tick is causing meat allergies, turning those hamburger lovers into veggie burger eaters.

There are hundreds of species of ticks in the world, with three of the most common ticks in the United States being the blacklegged (deer) tick, American dog tick and the Lone Star tick. The Lone Star tick is named for its defining white spot on its back and in states from Texas to Maine. A recent study by the University Of Virginia (UVA) says that bites from the Lone Star tick is causing new meat allergies.

“’People will eat beef and then anywhere from three to six hours later start having a reaction,’ says Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.” (See full story from ABC News here). Many of the patients studied had such bad reactions that they stopped eating meat all together.

While Commins has worked with 400 patients, this allergy is very odd. It is uncommon for adults to develop food allergies later in life, yet 90% of the patients have a history of tick bites. Additionally, with normal food allergies, patients see effects of eating the food almost instantly. These tick bite patients aren’t developing hives or any other symptoms until four to six hours after eating. “It’s complicated, no doubt,” says Commins, “but we think it’s something in the saliva.”

When ticks bite a human they leave a small amount of saliva under the skin. Commins theory is that there is something in the saliva that reacts with meat.

The majority of meat allergy cases popping up have occurred along the east coast and Bible belt, mirroring the population of the Lone Star tick. As always, we at Mosquito Squad encourage everyone who spends time outdoors to do thorough body checks and remove the tick promptly if you find any on you. If you can, take note of what the tick looks like in case you start to show symptoms of tick borne disease.

If you live in an area with a large population of ticks, professional tick control may be necessary.

Checking Dogs for Ticks

I’ve mentioned him before and I’m sure I will again, but my dog is an important part of my family. My husband and I probably spoil our precious Wiley a little too much, but as long as he gets excited to see me when I get home, it will continue.

tick-control-for dogsWiley loves walks, and I mean LOVES walks. Some of my girlfriends and I usually get together with our dogs several times a week and go for long walks. The ladies chat and the dogs sniff, sniff and sniff. Unfortunately for them, ticks have put a big damper on their main focus. According to Dogington Times, and like we’ve mentioned before, there are more ticks this year than normal. Despite some thoughts, even with tick medication, dogs can get ticks (the ticks will just die off when after a certain amount of time). And I’ve seen them.

Lucky for their owners, Tucker and Cutter, two of Wiley’s best dog friends, have light fur making it easier to spot ticks. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t at risk of getting them. On one walk, we counted eight (eight!) ticks on Tucker at one time. Eek! With Wiley being black, it’s much harder for me to see ticks, so I have to make sure to check him for ticks after our walks. And I learned the hard way how important it is to be thorough…

Last weekend I was watching TV when my four-legged friend decided he needed some attention. He took his normal “how about rubbing my tummy” position on his back, paws up. I was rubbing his tummy when I noticed a black stop on his inner thigh, a tick. I immediately removed it and checked him again, making sure not to miss a spot.

If you have a dog, or outdoor cat, you’ll want to check him/her any time they’ve spent time outdoors in places ticks may harbor. The best way to do this is to comb your finger through their skin with enough pressure to feel any bumps. If you feel something, separate the fur to see what it is. Make sure that you check behind the ears, between their toes, under their armpits and around their tail too. The size of the tick can be as small as a poppy seed or as big as a grape depending on how long they’ve been attached.

If you find a tick, remove it just like you would if you found a tick on yourself:

1. Using a pair of tweezers, grab the tick as close to the skin as you can.
2. Pull the tick’s body away from the skin (make sure you are pulling straight out and not at an angle).
3. Check to make sure that you got the entire tick out, head and all (easy to do if you place it in a plastic bag).
4. Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet.
5. After removal, clean the skin with soap and warm water.

If you have ticks in your yard, it’s important to use proper tick control techniques to keep you, your family and your friends safe from bites. As always, feel free to contact your local Mosquito Squad if you have questions.

Mosquitoes Versus Raindrops, who wins?

You know we here at Mosquito Squad love a good story or study on mosquitoes, and recently an engineer studied what happens to mosquitoes when they are hit by rain drops. So why did David Hu of the Georgia Institute of Technology want to know how mosquitoes could survive being hit by raindrops? To build robots of course! I’m not joking; Hu’s findings could help in the creation of mosquito-sized robots which could be used for military surveillance.

Mosquitoes have been flying around and bothering animals (and humans) for millions of years and we know that they do incredibly well in areas that get a lot of rain. According to USA today, a raindrop can weigh 50 times more than a mosquito, so how does it survive when hit in mid-flight (that’s worse than a 150lb person being hit by a loaded F-150 truck at 30 mph)? To answer that question, Hu and his team filmed caged mosquitoes with a high-speed camera as they were hit with droplets from a water jet. So, what did they find?

In short: Mosquitoes win!

“The mosquito’s low mass causes raindrops to lose little momentum upon impact and so impart correspondingly low forces to the mosquitoes,” says Hu. “If you were to scale up the impact to human size, we would not survive…They ride the drop, then reduce the force.”

To better understand the findings of this study, check out this video that shows some of the footage at slow motion from Hu’s study.

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* Tick control not available in MI without a license