Health Officials report increase in meat allergies from tick bites

The CDC says they’re seeing an uptick in red meat allergies from tick bites called Alpha Gal Syndrome.
Health officials report increase in meat allergy from tick bites
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 6:59 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Health officials are warning about an unusual allergy on the rise.

The CDC says they’re seeing an uptick in a red meat allergy called Alpha Gal Syndrome from tick bites. The agency reports more than 110,000 suspected cases between 2010 and 2022.

“We often describe it as an unusual food allergy,” said Dr. William Eschenbacher with Allergy Partners of Richmond.

Eschenbacher says the allergy is passed on by bites from lone star ticks, and its symptoms include nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, itchiness and development of hives, shortness of breath, and anaphylaxis in extreme cases.

“Instead of happening right away, the allergy is often delayed, usually three to six hours,” he added.

Eschenbacher says patients diagnosed with Alpha Gal Syndrome could also have to change their future eating habits.

The syndrome causes an allergy to some red meats and dairy products.

“So, try to avoid tick bites,” Eschenbacher said. “If you think you have a tick bite, it’s important to see your doctor.”

Eschenbacher says there are no medications or treatments for Alpha Gal Syndrome, but there are ways people can prevent themselves from contracting the syndrome. Over time, it is possible that symptoms can be outgrown.

To stay protected, Eschenbacher advises wearing protective and bright clothing, using bug spray repellent and always conducting tick checks on your body after spending time outside.

The Virginia Department of Health says it’s essential to identify the tick species since each one carries different pathogens. The VDH Vectorborne Team provides tick identification services for citizens in Virginia, which can be accessed here.