The lone star tick, an arachnid which gets its name from the single white dot on its creepy little back, has been linked to an recent outbreak of meat allergies that have recently plagued the East Coast and Bible Belt. When people question why, exactly, I don’t spend a lot of time outside during the summer months, I will gladly pass this article along to them. Yes, I’m a wimp and, yes, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, but when it comes to arachnids, I don’t mess around. At all.
University of Virginia researchers believe that something in the tick’s saliva triggers the allergy, which generally doesn’t manifest itself until about three to six hours after a savaged individual has consumed some sort of beef. Reactions range from hives to anaphylactic shock.
However, linking the lone star ticks to the outbreak of meat allergies is a bit difficult. “It’s hard to prove. We’re still searching for the mechanism.” explained Dr. Scott Commins, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “It’s complicated, no doubt. But we think it’s something in the saliva.”
Commins added that blood levels of antibodies for a sugar found in red meat, lamb, and pork spike after just a single bite from the blood-sucking arachnid. Regarding the allergy, Commins has seen over 400 cases, 90 percent of which involved people with a history of tick bites.
What do you do if you suspect that a lone star tick may have caused your sudden, unexplained allergy to meat? Contacting your doctor might be a step in the right director. According to Dr. Commins, avoidance might be your only option. If you’ve been on the fence about becoming a vegetarian, here;s your chance to dive in head-first. The rest of you, I’m afraid, may experience more than a little frustration about your newfound food allergy.
In short: If you’re a carnivore on the East Coast, tread carefully.