Most people do not think kindly of ticks. Not only do they consume blood, but they also carry diseases, like Lyme disease. Now, there is another reason to despise the small creatures. The lone star tick doesn’t just latch on and drink blood; its bite also transmits an illness that causes people to develop red meat and dairy allergies.
The lone star tick – which was named for the white, Texas-shaped marking on its back – was once just a problem for the southern United States. However, according to a report by Rare, they are now expanding their territory northward.
People may encounter these little bloodsuckers from Texas through Iowa, over to Maine and down to Florida.
In the US, there are approximately 5,000 known cases of people who have been bitten and then developed an allergy to red meat and dairy.
The alpha-gal allergy – the official name for the condition – is thankfully just temporary. Usually, it lasts for two or three years, suggesting that the person isn’t bitten by a lone star tick again.
While the reason for the spread of the lone star tick is not fully known, Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills believes that the rising deer population on the East coast could be responsible.
“One reason may be the explosion of the deer population on the East coast,” said Platts-Mills, the head of the University of Virginia’s allergy and clinical immunology division.
A single deer could carry around 500 ticks at a time, including lone star ticks.
“This is a very odd situation: most ticks are specific for some animal, so there are dog ticks, pig ticks, cattle ticks — these ticks really don’t like humans much. But the lone star tick really does like humans,” said Platts-Mills. “We’ve got deer on the lawns, and they’re dropping these ticks everywhere.”