COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A type of tick that triggers a red meat allergy in humans has heath officials on alert.
Experts say the Lone Star tick, mainly seen in Southern Ohio, is making its way to the central portion of the state.
Retired Ohio State University Professor Emeritus Dr. Glen Needham spends his days searching for ticks. On Tuesday, he searched a wooded area on OSU’s campus to find the tick that is causing people to have allergic reactions to red meat.
The Lone Star tick is identified by a single white dot in the middle of its back.
“It carries a couple of diseases all lumped under the category of ehrlichiosis,” Needham said.
Alpha-gal is a red meat allergy doctors and researchers believe is caused by Lone Star tick bites.
“All Lone Star ticks have the same mixture of chemicals. So what’s different is your reaction to their saliva. There is a small percent of the population that has this reaction to Lone Star tick saliva,” Needham said.
Doctors at OSU Wexner Medical Center have recently started treating patients from Southern Ohio, who were bitten by a Lone Star tick and are now allergic to red meat.
Experts say a person can start having a reaction within three to six hours after eating meat. Symptoms can include stomach cramps, rashes, shallow breathing, and even death.
“I think anything that is unusual for you following a tick bite, you should be seen by a health care professional. It raises that it could be a red meat allergy,” Needham said.
Doctors at OSU say once a person develops a red meat allergy, they will be allergic to meat for the rest of their lives.
If you find a tick on your body, remove it quickly with tweezers or tick removal tools. Always spray your body and clothing with tick repellent when in shrubby areas.
If you do get bitten by a tick, it is important that you save it, put it in a jar with alcohol or hand sanitizer, and take it to your health provider.