A bite from one type of tick can give you a serious allergy to red meat and other animal products — and Missouri has some of the highest case rates in the U.S., according to a report released last week by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Reports have occurred in Texas County.
Cases of this unusual condition have been increasing over the past five years, especially in the Midwest, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Lone Star tick, which is one of the most common ticks, can carry a condition called Alpha-gal Syndrome: an extreme sensitivity to the sugar molecule nicknamed “alpha-gal.” This molecule is found in mammal products like beef, pork, dairy products and gelatin.
The other characteristic that sets Alpha-gal Syndrome apart from other allergies is the onset of its symptoms. Many allergic reactions happen near-instantly — but symptoms of Alpha-gal Syndrome can take two to six hours to appear after a mammal product is consumed. This can make the disease more difficult to diagnose.
WHERE IS ALPHA-GAL SYNDROME MOST PREVALENT?
Experts from the KDHE and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said the disease is not required to be reported in either state, meaning exact case numbers are not available. But according to the CDC, the presence of Alpha-gal Syndrome in the U.S. has been increasing over the past five years.
“Missouri is one of the states with the highest number of people testing positive for Alpha-gal (Syndrome),” the KDHE wrote in an Aug. 3 presentation.
HOW CAN I STAY SAFE FROM ALPHA-GAL SYNDROME?
Alpha-gal Syndrome is thought to be primarily spread through the Lone Star tick, one of the most common ticks in Kansas and Missouri. Preventative measures can help keep ticks away and protect you from this disease.
Kansas health officials recommend that residents “avoid grassy, brushy areas and use insect repellents” on yourself and your pets.
“Light colored clothing makes it a bit easier to spot ticks,” added Missouri Department of Conservation spokesperson Bill Graham. “Once home, promptly check the body thoroughly for ticks, (and) use mirrors if necessary to check everywhere.”
The department adds that tweezers can be used to detach ticks from the body if one has already bitten you.
“Lightly pinch the tick as close to your skin as possible,” the department writes. “Pull the tick straight out. Wash and disinfect the area and apply antibiotics.”