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Doctors handle rising number of cases of tick bite that causes meat allergy

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Listen up outdoor lovers and meat eaters, a bizarre new illness could prevent you from enjoying everything from steak to lamb.

It's an allergy caused by a tick bite.

Reaction to the insect's bite is quickly becoming one of the top cases handled by local allergy specialists.

"This is one of the more strange stories you'll ever hear," said Allergy and Immunology Specialist Dr. Jim Haltom. "My first case was probably three to four years ago".

The physician is talking about the Lone Star tick bite that causes an allergy to red meat and pork.

The Lone Star tick is brown with a white spot on its back. It is very common in Mississippi.

At his practice, Mississippi Asthma & Allergy Clinic, more than 100 patients are being treated with the allergy. 

The Lone Star tick is found predominantly in the Southeast, from Texas to Iowa and into New England.

In some people, the tick transmits an allergy to sugar called alpha galactose. 

"The allergy is really bizarre, because it occurs several hours after you eat the red meat.," said Haltom. "So it's not an instant allergy like peanut allergy or shellfish allergy, and that's what made it so difficult to establish".

The symptoms range from hives, rash and itching to a swollen tongue, face, throat and airway.

It could lead to include death if not diagnosed and treated.

"Some have ended up in intensive care units on ventilators because of the severity of the allergic reaction," said Haltom. "And it was only after the fact that we realized what was going on."

Diagnosed patients can eat poultry, fish and shellfish. They are instructed to change their diet and eating habits and check the labels and ingredients of food.

When eating out, alert the wait staff and food preparers of the allergy to red meat and pork.

"This is also the first food allergy not only is it delayed, but it's the first food allergy we know of that's related to a sugar," added Haltom.

While there is no cure, physicians say it is possible to become non-allergic over months to years.

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