Tick bites are making people allergic to red meat, researchers say

Published June 12, 2013

| The Wall Street Journal

If Lyme disease isn't reason enough to avoid ticks, here's another: the inability to enjoy a burger.

Odd as it seems, researchers say that bites from the voracious lone star tick are making some people allergic to red meat—even if they've never had a problem eating it before.

The allergic reactions range from vomiting and abdominal cramps to hives to anaphylaxis, which can lead to breathing difficulties and sometimes even death.

Unlike most food allergies, the symptoms typically set in three to six hours after an affected person eats beef, pork or lamb—often in the middle of the night.

The bite that seems to precipitate it may occur weeks or months before, often making it difficult for people to make the link.

Cases of the unusual allergy were first identified at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 2007, and are now being reported as far north as Nantucket, Mass., and on the east end of New York's Long Island.

"It's a huge problem out here," says Erin McGintee, a pediatric and adult allergist in East Hampton, N.Y., who says she knows of more than 70 cases and sees several more each week. "I've been trying to get the word out—but there are still a lot of people who don't believe it," she adds.

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