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.