Alpha-Gal an 'epidemic,' more cases being diagnosed in Virginia

More food allergies being diagnosed in people of all ages

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor

ROANOKE - As more and more people are developing allergies, 10 News wants to keep your family safe.

More than 10 percent of adults in the U.S. have food allergies, according to a recent national study. The most common are shellfish, milk, peanuts, tree nuts and fin fish. Researchers found almost half of the people who had food allergies developed at least one during adulthood.

Carilion Clinic Dr. Aneysa Sane is seeing more food allergies in people of all ages.

She says Alpha-Gal, a mammal meat allergy, is an epidemic.

"I'm seeing at least two new cases a week which to me is an epidemic of food allergy. It is, we feel, related to having a deer tick bite or possibly chigger bites and those deer ticks are tiny. After that, a person will have allergic symptoms after eating mammal meat. That means any meat from an animal that nurses its young like pork or beef. This can be life threatening," said Sane.

She says many people don't understand you have a delayed allergic reaction when you have Alpha Gal.

"With a typical allergy like a peanut allergy usually symptoms will start 15 to 30 minutes after eating the food but with the Alpha-gal the delay can be four to six hours after ingestion so it's very hard for some people to realize this is a food allergy and what it's from."

She says a lot of the symptoms you can have with a food allergy include mouth itching, throat itching that could progress to nausea, throwing up, hives or trouble breathing.

"The important thing is a patient may not have all of those symptoms, maybe just one," said Sane. "It's important to get checked because there is medication that could be life-saving."

EpiPen (epinephrine) Auto-Injectors can mean life or death.

"Tragically in our community a few weeks ago a 20-year old died from eating a walnut that was in a brownie and did not have injectable epinephrine with him. That is a life-saving treatment to have the injectable epinephrine available," Sane said.

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