Tick Bites Are Causing A Horrible Life-Threatening Meat Allergy

alpha gal syndrome
What Is Alpha-Gal Syndrome?TadejZupancic / E+ / Getty Images; magnetcreative / E+ / Getty Images

In a recently released report, the CDC estimates that nearly half a million Americans suffer from alpha-gal syndrome. This potentially life-threatening allergy to red meat is triggered by tick bites. The agency has identified at least 110,000 suspected cases since 2010, but experts believe that hundreds of thousands of Americans are currently living with the condition without a diagnosis.

If a person has alpha-gal syndrome, eating meat from mammals, including beef, pork, venison, lamb, and rabbit, triggers allergic reactions of varying degrees of severity. The same applies for any product made from mammals, like milk and gelatin. Alpha-gal syndrome is not triggered by poultry, seafood, or reptiles.

The range of symptoms is vast; alpha-gal syndrome can cause hives, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, drops in blood pressure, dizziness, severe stomach pain, and even anaphylaxis.

The inconsistency in allergic reactions is just part of what makes alpha-gal so different to identify. A CDC survey of health care providers found that 78 percent of the participating clinicians had little to no knowledge of the condition. And nearly half of the health care professionals who were familiar with alpha-gal syndrome did not know how to properly diagnose it.

According to the CDC’s research, cases are most prevalent in the southern, midwestern, and mid-Atlantic areas of the United States. However, there are also clusters of alpha-gal syndrome sufferers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Evidence suggests that the lone star tick is the primary carrier of the condition—but the CDC hasn’t ruled out other potential sources just yet.

As of right now, there are no known treatments or cures for alpha-gal syndrome. The best way to avoid alpha-gal syndrome is to prevent tick bites. The CDC recommends staying away from grassy, bushy, and wooded areas and using EPA-registered insect repellents.

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