Tick That Makes You Allergic to Meat Spreads to Hudson Valley
If you thought Lyme disease was concerning, wait until you hear about the latest tick threat to hit the Hudson Valley.
The Center for Disease Control has classified the lone star tick as a "concern" for residents of the Hudson Valley. Named for the white dot on its back, just one bite from the lone star can give victims a strange and possibly deadly affliction.
In the past, the lone star tick was located as far north as Long Island, but recently it's been rapidly spreading. The CDC has released a map that shows the tick has now made its way to the Hudson Valley. The government agency says that the lone star tick is something our area should now be concerned about on a regional scale.
What does this tick do?
According to Scientific American, the lone star tick can make its victims dangerously allergic to meat. That's right, this tick has the ability to turn anyone into a vegetarian after sinking its teeth into their skin. What's even more concerning is that people who've been bitten by the tick may not even realize they're allergic and suffer a variety of symptoms, including the possibility of anaphylactic shock.
How does this happen?
Scientifically known as the Amblyomma americanum, the lone star tick transmits the alpha-gal molecule to its victims after biting them. The human immune system sees the molecule as a threat and begins to attack, producing antibodies to destroy it. Usually tolerated by humans, the alpha-gal molecule is present in pretty much all mammal meat. However, after building up an immune response, the next time the molecule is detected by the immune system it's violently attacked, causing an allergic reaction.
What are the symptoms?
Someone who's been bitten by the lone star tick and affected with alpha-gal syndrome could feel a wide variety of symptoms. Hours after ingesting meat victims may experience tingling in the mouth, a rash, swelling, eye irritation, swollen joints or even anaphylaxis. Those who are infected are usually not easily diagnosed.
Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, there's no known treatment for alpha-gal syndrome, but antihistamines can be used to treat its symptoms. The only way to avoid getting sick is to stop eating meat. The good news is that scientists believe that the immune response isn't permanent. The majority of cases appear to only last for four to five years.
What to do if you've been bitten
Many times people don't even realize they've been bitten but if you do find a lone star tick on your skin there's no need to immediately panic. According to the CDC redness and discomfort at a bite site "does not necessarily indicate an infection." It's believed that nymphs and adult females are most likely to transmit disease, but because they're so tiny you probably won't know or have time to determine their age or gender. Keep reading below for more specific information on what to do if you've been bitten by a tick in the Hudson Valley.