Tick-carrying disease can make you allergic to meat

KANSAS CITY - A rare, tick-related disease can make you allergic to red meat, and it can be contracted right here in the metro.

The disease is known as “Alpha-Gal” and once contracted there is no telling how long a person will be allergic to red meats, including beef, pork, and lamb. A single bite of meat could result in breaking out in hives, shortness of breath, and vomiting.

Doctors with the University of Kansas Health System said they see one or two patients a month with the disease. They believed it is caused by numerous tick bites over time. 

"It seems that the ticks may have these proteins and carbohydrates in their stomach when they feed on people. Some of those contents get transferred to the humans and then after multiple tick bites your body recognizes those little pieces that have come from the tick and they develop antibodies to that,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson.

The type of tick associated with the disease is the lone star tick, known for having a little white dot on its back. Rick Miller with the Johnson County Extension Office said the lone star tick is one of the most popular here in the metro.

He said if you do get a tick bite, the faster you pull the tick off the more likely you are to not contract any tick-carrying diseases. 

"The longer that tick is on your body, there is a greater chance that it has the opportunity to transfer some virus or bacteria from its saliva into your body or that your body is going to react to that negatively in some way. So, the key is as always, any time you think you are going into the woods or tall grass or an environment where those ticks going to be you want to immediately do a self-check,” said Miller. 

Both Miller and Hawkinson said prevention is key in making sure people do not get tick-carrying diseases like Alpha-Gal.

Here are some tips to stay tick free this summer:

  • Wear long sleeves and cover up as much skin on your body as possible.
  • Wear bug replant. Dr. Hawkinson and Miller suggest a deet-based formula
  • Do a tick inspection on your body when you come indoors
  • Shower off after being outside
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