I have a friend, a retired doctor, who is a vegetarian. He is strict and won’t eat any red meat, chicken or fish. I know that eating vegetarian is healthy, but once and a while I like a pastrami sandwich, you know what I mean.
But for some people, being vegetarian is not a matter of choice.
Doctors across the country are seeing a phenomenon in which people are suddenly allergic to meat because they were bitten by a certain type of tick.
Most people associate tick bites with other diseases, such as Lyme disease. But this tick is different. Called the Lone Star tick, named for the state of Texas–it has caused severe allergic reactions in people who have eaten a burger or a steak and has landed them in the hospital. The allergy has spread from the Southwest and the East and is spreading to other parts of the US.
An interesting article in Science Daily quotes Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Dr. Robert Valet who says, “it is not completely understood exactly how the allergy starts. The thought is that the tick has an alpha-gal sugar in its gut and introduces it as part of the allergic bite and that causes the production of the allergy antibody threat then cross-reacts to the meat.”
Vanderbilt reports seeing one or more new cases each week.
In the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Erin McGintee, an allergist on Long Island has reported to have seen as many as 200 Lone Star tick cases in the last three years. She says “the symptoms can occur as long as eight hours afte eating meat rather than immediately.
Allergic symptoms, said Dr. Valet, can range from the hives and swelling, to broader ones such as vomiting, diarrhea, trouble breathing, and a drop in lood pressure. Other symptoms such as itching can be treated with antihistamines, but severe or broader ones can only be treated with epinephrine.
People who have suffered an allergic attack are encouraged to carry an EpiPen in case of a reoccurance of symptoms from cross-contimination of any food associated with red meat.