A veterinary clinic in London, Ont. has issued a warning for a rare species of tick that has been known to cause a meat allergy in humans.
The Oakridge Animal Clinic took to social media after a Lone Star tick was found on a feline patient. The clinic noted that the cat had picked up the tick locally, although the species is predominantly located in the southeastern United States.
“This tick showed up today,” the clinic wrote in a Facebook post. “She caused quite a stir. Not native to Canada there have been rumours of the Lone Star Tick being found in Ontario. This was our first one. This shows why tick protection is important for your furry family members.”
In recent years, Lone Star ticks have spread throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada, bringing with them the risk of developing alpha-gal syndrome which is transmitted through a bite from the species.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this specific species of tick transmits a sugar molecule called alpha-gal that causes causes the body to react when ingesting red meat. Unlike most food allergies, alpha-gal syndrome reactions are often delayed up to six hours after eating red meat. Symptoms can range in severity, including headaches and sneezing to hives, swelling of the face, throat and tongue, nausea and diarrhea, shortness of breath and in some cases, anaphylaxis.
Scientists believe the Lone Star tick carry alpha-gal molecules from animals they commonly bite such as cows and sheep. Previous cases of alpha-gal syndrome have been reported in the United States, Australia and Europe.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology advises a proper diagnosis from an allergist should you frequently experience allergy-like symptoms after eating meat. Aside from avoid meats such as beef and pork when possible, those with more severe allergies should carry an epiPen with them at all times in case of an emergency.
Aside from using bug repellent that contains DEET, Jeremy Hogeveen, the vector-borne disease coodinator with the Middlesex-London Health Unit told CTV News London that checking your body thoroughly for ticks is essential to tick prevention.
“They start to move into areas where you’re not going to look too often — your armpits, your scalp, behind your ears, behind your knees,” Hogeveen said.
With pets as common carriers for ticks into the home, ensuring that your pet is up to date on tick prevention medications and checking your pet for ticks after spending time outdoors is essential to maintaining your pets overall health, and minimizing your chances of being bitten.