Vegans may have found their way to world domination. (Okay, that's a bad joke. Sorry.)
Flickr user Joshua Allen
A tick called Lone Star tick is starting to spread and while the name sounds harmless, it's becoming a real problem. Why? Well, it's carrying something you wouldn't like--a lifetime pain of not being able to eat meat. It rewires one's immune system and triggers changes in the body that makes one sensitive to a sugar compound, alpha-galactose.
"You're walking through the woods, and that tick has had a meal of cow blood or mammal blood," explained Cosby Stone, an allergy and immunology fellow at Vanderbilt University. "The tick, carrying Alpha-Gal, bites you and activates your allergy immune system."
In short, when bitten, you become allergic to meat (called Alpha-Gal allergy). And the worst part? You wouldn't even know immediately!
"There's a time delay in the reaction," said Stone. "It [the Alpha-Gal] has to first travel through your gastrointestinal tract to be released. Hours later, patients wake up with hives, shortness of breath, vomiting, and diarrhea."
"It can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," said Dr. Ronald Saff, an allergist in Tallahassee, Florida, and an assistant clinical professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine.
Cases vary but some symptoms can be so severe to other people that they had to be admitted to the ICU. And it seems to appear "out of the blue" so patients don't know what's actually happening to them.
However, this Alpha-Galactose or Alpha-Gal allergy isn't very common yet. Not even known enough that states are still not required to report it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But this clearly needs immediate action as even its larvae can be "quite aggressive," according to the CDC. They even feed on our beloved cats and dogs!
And these ticks are still continuing to spread the pain. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said.
Whew. This is very frightening...