Tick causing new allergy to red meat for dozens of Kentuckians - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Tick causing new allergy to red meat for dozens of Kentuckians

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A tiny tick is causing real problems for meat lovers because of the allergic reaction it triggers.

Eating grilled burgers, steaks and other red meat are a staple for some people -- that is until they're bitten by the Lone Star Tick.

After that, some patients have a new allergy to red meat. Several cases have been reported so far in the Louisville area.

"They'll have eaten an evening meal with red meat and then they'll wake up in the middle of the night ... with some sort of symptom," said Dr. James Sublett with Family Allergy and Asthma said.

Symptoms can include a rash, hives, swelling of the lips and throat, and trouble breathing.

Family Allergy and Asthma says the practice has seen about 50 patients who have become allergic to meat as a result of being bitten by the Lone Star tick. A third of those patients are from the Louisville area.

"In this case, the tick bite triggers the reaction," Sublett said. "The antibody revs up to the red meat. Then at that point, you have the reaction to the Alpha-Gal in the red meat."

Doctors say Alpha-Gal is a sugar that humans don't have. It's the start of an allergic reaction the next time the person eats red meat and that sugar.

"It generally takes a few weeks -- two to three weeks after the tick bite before you see it come up," Sublett said. "That's pretty typical of an allergic response."

People who love the outdoors are often the ones who get bitten by the Lone Star Tick. That includes hunters and hikers.

Sublett says some people have had the meat allergy for years and didn't realize what was making them so sick. Lab tests will confirm the problem.

Just like people with nut allergies, meat-allergic people are urged to carry an EpiPen for severe reactions.

The Lone Star Tick gets its name from a lone white spot. Some think it looks like a star.

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture says the Lone Star tick is seen in Western and Southern Kentucky and is becoming more common in Central and Eastern counties of the state.

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