Ticks That Can Make People Severely Allergic To Meat Are Spreading In The U.S.

Aug 18, 2014

By Loren Grush

 

Mike Abley will always remember the last hamburger he ever ate. It was more than 20 years ago, and he recalls the meat being particularly juicy and delicious.

But a few hours after dinner, Abley started itching like mad. He burst into hives, his tongue swelled, and he eventually passed out, prompting his wife to call 911. At the hospital, doctors determined he had gone into anaphylactic shock—a potentially deadly allergic reaction.

Fortunately, Abley pulled through, and he later met with an allergist to determine what had caused the terrifying episode. A series of tests revealed something strange: The hamburger had triggered the reaction. And it wasn’t just the beef he was allergic to; it was practically all red meat.

“I’ve always said I think it’s karma,” says Abley, now 73, a lifetime resident of Virginia. “My family have been cattle ranchers for generations.”

Abley is one of at least 1,500 people in the United States who suffer allergic reactions after eating meat, and doctors interviewed by Popular Science believe such cases are on the rise. But what’s even more bizarre is the source of the allergy. The condition, called alpha-gal allergy, is caused by the bite of a Lone Star tick—a species traditionally found mostly in the Southern United States but has spread farther north in recent years.

11 comments on “Ticks That Can Make People Severely Allergic To Meat Are Spreading In The U.S.

  • 2
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Sigh.. here we go again… karma. There’s no such thing as karma. But there is such a thing as confirmation bias.

    Shit inevitably happens in life and it happens to everybody at some point, good or bad people regardless. But the believer will recall some bad action from the past and use that as an explanation for her misfortune. This way of thinking is strangely similar to the idea of divine retribution in Christianity. Many people I know think it’s benign but I think it’s on the contrary quite toxic because it tends to encourage guilt: the fuel on which religion runs.

    As George Carlin used to say: “It’s bullshit and it’s bad for you”.



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  • There is an irony to this that I hesitate to call delicious. Climate change may be the reason the ticks are spreading North in the United States. But if they force Americans to eat less meat, anthropogenic climate change will be thereby somewhat dampened. I’m not saying it’s a good thing; I just find that an interesting observation.



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  • My thought too.

    Nature can provide, but if we don’t become better behaved we’ll get kicked out of the proceedings; for us the party will be over, but the planet will continue “cycling on”, ticks and all.



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  • Jos Gibbons Aug 19, 2014 at 2:41 am

    There is an irony to this that I hesitate to call delicious. …. .. I just find that an interesting observation.

    Here’s another interesting observation.
    If you pull off ticks it tends to leave the head embedded in your skin causing infection or allergic reactions.
    One of the best ways to remove them is by borrowing a cigarette from a smoker who is walking with you, and applying the glowing embers to the tick’s rear end. This causes it to let go, drop off, and dive for cover.



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  • If they survive the allergic reaction and go onto a healthier diet, it might have its bright side. A parasite that makes you allergic to meat is probably among the least offensive ones compared with, say, disease-carrying mosquitoes.

    That’s not to downplay the allergic reactions, though. That stuff is nasty to go through.



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  • Click box next to ‘source’ for continued reading, Popular Science. Where’s that ‘Connections’ guy when you need him, lol.

    The ticks host on white-tail deer and wild turkeys. Go north young tick – armadillos (who pose no health risk to humans) are migrating from Texas and Alabama all they way to southern Missouri. Perhaps due to climate change, as suggested below.



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  • There is an irony to this that I hesitate to call delicious. Climate change may be the reason the ticks are spreading North in the United States.

    Recently toured the Rockies. The pines are dying in their thousands because the pine beetle is in plague proportions. They haven’t had a cold winter in 15 years, which kills off most of the beetle larvae. The beetles are going nuts eating everything in sight. I’ve got photos of whole mountainsides with almost no live pines left. Like a distopian movie.

    The current outbreak in the Rocky Mountain National Park began in 1996 and has caused the destruction of millions of acres of ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees. According to an annual assessment by the state’s forest service, 264,000 acres of trees in Colorado were infested by the mountain pine beetle at the beginning of 2013. This was much smaller than the 1.15 million acres that were affected in 2008 because the beetle has already killed off most of the vulnerable trees (Ward).[1]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_pine_beetle

    Some religious guy said this. “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Another irony here.



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