Meat Allergy Ticks Spread Disease Across Virginia

( — Health officials in Virginia warn that the meat allergy Alpha-Gal Syndrome is skyrocketing in the state, WSET reported.

In late July, the CDC called Alpha-Gal Syndrome, a tick bite-associated allergy, an emerging public health concern. The number of cases in the US has increased significantly since 2010, particularly in states with populations of lone star ticks.

According to the CDC, like any other food allergy, the syndrome can be life-threatening to those with a sensitivity to the oligosaccharide molecule, alpha-gal, which is found in meat from ungulates. The sensitivity can also sometimes cause a reaction to some dairy products and medications.

Veterinarian Julia Murphy with the Virginia Department of Health told WSET that the state has a large population of lone star ticks, which are likely driving the increase in people testing positive for Alpha-Gal Syndrome.

The most common symptoms of Alpha-Gal Syndrome are allergy-related reactions like hives, swelling, and nausea. The symptoms usually present between two and six hours after eating something containing alpha-gal sugar.

Murphy said the best way to avoid contracting the syndrome is to not get bitten by a tick. She suggested wearing light colors when outside to make it easier to spot ticks on clothing. She also suggested using tick sprays and always checking yourself when you return indoors.

Murphy said those who contract Alpha-Gal Syndrome will have to watch what they eat and what medications they might take. She said since the syndrome is still new, it is not clear how long it takes before an individual experiences symptoms or if the syndrome can be cured.

Murphy told WSET that the best chance for those suffering from Alpha-Gal Syndrome is to avoid anything containing the alpha-gal sugar and not to get bitten by a tick again. She said anyone who has recently been bitten by a tick and now experiences delayed allergic reactions from eating should contact a doctor immediately.

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