Lone Star Tick That Makes People Allergic to Red Meat is Back in DC Area


The lone star tick that can give people a life-long allergy to red meat from just one bite is in the Washington DC area.

Source: CBS Pittsburgh/Youtube

With summer nearing, ticks have reawoken, and the lone star tick is making a comeback in the DC area. A lone star tick has one white spot on its back if it’s a female, and just one bite can cause a life-long adverse reaction to eating red meat.

The lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, is usually found in the eastern, southeastern, and south-central states, according to the CDC. The abundance, distribution, and range of the tick have increased over the last few decades, and they have been reported as far north as Maine and as far west as central Texas and Oklahoma.

Unlike other ticks, the lone star tick does not transmit Lyme disease, but it can create a severe red meat allergy known as alpha-gal syndrome. When ticks feed on animal mammals, they ingest alpha-gal sugars. Then, if they bite and feed on humans, they inject the alpha-gal sugars with their saliva into the human bloodstream.

Alpha-gal is a foreign substance to our bodies, and we will begin to develop antibodies. Red meat contains alpha-gal sugars, so, therefore, if a person eats red meat, the immune system will recognize the meat as a foreign substance. When someone with an alpha-gal allergy eats red meat, they can experience rash, hives, itching, swelling, shortness of breath, headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting. In more severe cases, people could experience anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction. The allergy can become worse over time.

The lone star tick can transmit other diseases as well, including Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI), which can cause fatigue, headache, fever, and muscle pain, according to the CDC.

Lone star ticks are a different shape than a dog tick and are usually much larger than a deer tick. The females have a white spot on their back, making it easier to identify them. If you are bitten by any tick, monitor the bite closely and consult a physician if you experience a rash, fever, headache, joint or muscle pain, or swollen lymph nodes within 30 days of a tick bite, as these could be signs of tick -borne diseases.

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