Steep Rise in Rare Meat Allergy Caused by Tick Bites, CDC Reports

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new data showing a significant increase in cases of alpha-gal syndrome, a rare meat allergy caused by tick bites. As many as 450,000 Americans may have been impacted by this condition, which triggers a potentially life-threatening reaction to various types of meat and animal products. Scientists have linked alpha-gal syndrome to saliva from the lone star tick, primarily found in southern and eastern parts of the US, but expanding its range due to climate change.

The tick bites from the lone star tick can lead to illness in individuals who consume certain meat and animal products made from mammals. Foods such as pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, venison, gelatine, milk, some dairy products, and certain pharmaceuticals can trigger symptoms of the syndrome, including stomach cramps, diarrhea, hives, and shortness of breath, which may escalate to fatal anaphylaxis. The reactions to alpha-gal syndrome vary from person to person, ranging from mild to severe.

According to the CDC, diagnosing alpha-gal syndrome can be challenging, as the body digests meat slowly, making it difficult to spot symptoms that may arise. Since 2010, more than 110,000 cases have been detected, and from 2017 to 2021, the number of cases increased by approximately 15,000 per year. Due to the difficulties with diagnosis, the CDC estimates that up to 450,000 Americans may have developed meat allergies due to alpha-gal.

A recent survey of 1,500 doctors and health workers found that 42% of them were unfamiliar with the syndrome. About one-third of the respondents said they lacked confidence in their ability to identify the disease. The alpha-gal syndrome was accidentally discovered in 2008 by US researchers while testing a cancer treatment drug.

Australia has also reported similar meat allergies caused by tick bites from the paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus, in the Sydney region. Experts recommend covering up outdoors and regularly checking for tick bites, as they can cause various dangerous illnesses, including Lyme disease. The CDC advises using insect repellent and pre-treating clothing with permethrin to prevent tick bites when outdoors.

SOURCE: Ref Image from The Today Show

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