Karma/Bitch etc: Climate Driven Tick Brings Allergy to Red Meat

May 1, 2022

Spreading to DC.
Next to a tick disease that makes one’s penis fall off, this one seem likely to get lawmaker’s attention.

Washington Post:

Our recent warm weather has reawakened ticks, and one type in particular is becoming more common in the D.C. area: the lone star tick. One bite from this tick, which is easily identified by the white spot on its back if it’s a female, can cause a life-long adverse reaction to eating red meat.

The lone star tick originated in the southern states but has spread north and west to cover much of the eastern half of the country. With a warming climate, more ticks survive the winter months, and their range is expanding.

Unlike the black-legged (deer) tick, the lone star tick doesn’t transmit Lyme disease, but it can produce a severe food allergy in people known as alpha-gal syndrome, which is an allergy to red meat.

When lone star ticks feed on mammals, such as mice, rabbits or deer, they ingest alpha-gal sugars. Later, if the ticks bite and feed on humans, they inject the alpha-gal sugars with their saliva into their human host.

Because people don’t have alpha-gal in their bodies, the human immune system recognizes alpha-gal from a tick bite as a foreign substance and mounts a response, including the development of antibodies. Often, the bite site becomes swollen and itchy.

But red meat, which contains alpha-gal sugars, can further trigger reactions. If red meat is eaten by people bitten by the lone star tick, the immune system recognizes the alpha-gal from the meat as a foreign substance. As a result, the body mounts a response, often much more severe than the initial response to the tick bite.

The alpha-gal allergy to red meat can lead to a rash, hives, itching, swelling, shortness of breath, headaches, abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. With severe cases, a person may suffer anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction.

Initially, alpha-gal syndrome was hard to diagnose because the allergic reaction occurs many hours after meat is ingested. In addition, the allergy to red meat lasts a lifetime and can become worse over time.

Keith Tremel from Edgewater, Md., is a competitive barbecue cook who can’t eat or taste his smoked beef and pork dishes. He needs to wear rubber gloves when handling red meat, or he’ll break out in a rash. He contracted alpha-gal syndrome after a lone star tick bite five years ago and is highly allergic to most of the meat he cooks.

Tremel remembers the tick bite: “I was bitten on the thigh by a tick while I was sleeping. It woke me up. I pulled the tick off and immediately saw the white dot. I had recently read an article about alpha-gal and lone star ticks, so I instantly recognized it. I wouldn’t say the bite was painful, but it did wake me up.”

Soon after the tick bite, Tremel ate a hamburger and broke out in a rash over most of his body. A week later, another hamburger caused the same rash. Later, a third hamburger led to a similar outcome, and Tremel went to see a doctor, fearing alpha-gal syndrome.

Tremel’s doctor had never heard of alpha-gal and looked it up on his laptop while Tremel waited. The diagnosis was indeed alpha-gal syndrome. “It was not comforting when I realized I knew more about alpha-gal than a medical professional,” he said in an email.

The increase in ticks can be attributed to warmer temperatures across the seasons. Michael Raupp, entomology professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, said warmer temperatures in the winter allow more ticks to survive the usually harsh season. Mild weather in the fall, winter and spring also allows them to actively seek hosts for longer periods, which increases their chances of survival. In addition, Raupp said, a boost in animals on which the ticks feed, such as white-tailed deer, also helps increase the tick population.

In addition to alpha-gal, the lone star ticks transmit diseases, including Southern Tick Associated Rash Illness (STARI), which produces a rash, fever, fatigue and pain in muscles and joints, and ehrlichiosis, which produces flu-like symptoms, including headache, joint and muscle aches, fever and fatigue.

7 Responses to “Karma/Bitch etc: Climate Driven Tick Brings Allergy to Red Meat”

  1. redskylite Says:

    Plenty of health concerns being reported by medical sources, still largely ignored by most governments, that sail on with the fossil fuel trade.

    “Pandemics are going to happen more and a key driver of this is climate change. As climates change animals will change their distribution; they’ll probably group together more allowing viruses to jump more easily between them. With more humans living closer to wildlife, this opens the gate for potentially deadly viruses to then jump to human hosts.”


  2. Gingerbaker Says:

    Karma ?!

    Most people think it is perfectly ethical to eat humanely-raised animals. No wonder there are so many posts here where you describe animal husbandry as “torture”.

    • John Oneill Says:

      I don’t avoid meat because I think New Zealand farmers are torturing their animals. I avoid it because it’s one of the ways I can reduce my carbon footprint, without too much effort. On the other hand, I’m affiliated to a local volunteer group called ‘The Mammalian Correction Society’, which works to control introduced animals like possums, rats, and stoats. As well as giving our native birds and insects some respite from predation, possum control could also be a useful way of increasing carbon sequestration in our forests. Possums browsing on some of the more palatable native trees have been driving them towards local extinction, and eating 20,000 tons of foliage a day.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It’s not enough to show that animals can be humanely raised. I would like to see laws that require cameras monitoring large livestock operations, available for review to ensure animals are humanely raised.

      There are other aspects that need to be regulated like waste management. Anaerobic lagoons produce a lot methane (which is a GHG issue) and hydrogen sulfide, which is both a toxicity and smell issue for the surrounding area.

      • Gingerbaker Says:

        Again – cow methane is not a GHG issue if you do the math right.

        But there is little excuse for anaerobic lagoons. It should be mandated that cow excrements at CAFOs are to be incorporated into soils continuously. CAFOs should become solid compost sellers.

        Alternatively, there is success at certain California ranches/dairy operations where lagoons are covered, and the methane captured to be burned as fuel. Better to burn it than to release it as CH4.

        • Gingerbaker Says:

          And I think you will find that almost all cattle operations are humane. It is not in the ranchers best interest to lose a a single animal. PETA propaganda would have us believe that inhumane conditions are rife, and this is not the case. That said, I am all for regulation that ensures humane conditions.

  3. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Vegan conspiracy!

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