Tick common in Virginia found to cause red meat allergy

ROANOKE, Va. – After an allergic reaction sent Dean Cecil to the ER in 2016, an allergist was able to diagnose him with an allergy to red meat caused by a tick bite.

He now carries an epi-pen and must avoid eating pork, lamb and beef. 

"I used to love to grill out your hamburgers, your steaks, your ribs," said Cecil. "Well, those things are no longer on my menu."

"It's not entirely clear to scientists why a bite from the Lone Star tick bite causes an allergy to the carbohydrate, alpha-gal, found in red meat, or how common this is," said Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports health editor. "But it's important to note, it doesn't happen to everybody who's bitten."

Right now the Lone Star tick is found mainly in the Southeast United States and is very common here in Virginia. Their habitats are spreading, and they can be found as far north as Minnesota and Maine.  

While not all ticks carry the same diseases, at least one variety of disease-transmitting ticks can be found in every state. Black-legged ticks spread Lyme disease, which is the most common. About 300,000 Americans develop Lyme each year. 

One way to avoid a tick-borne infection is to prevent tick bites by always using an effective insect repellent.

Consumer Reports' testing of repellents found products that contain between 25-30 percent DEET are best at repelling ticks.

You'll want to thoroughly check yourself and others for ticks after being outside, also shower soon after you come indoors.  

For extra protection, toss the clothing you wore outside into the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks that might still be hanging on. 

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