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Health: Tick Bite May Cause Surprising Allergy

stephanie-web Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A potential new danger is being linked to ticks in our area, and it’s not a disease but a strange allergic reaction. Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl explains.

They can be anywhere outside. Ticks are a summer time annoyance and are known to cause Lyme disease.

Researchers say a bite from a particular type of tick, called the lone star tick, might cause people to suddenly develop an allergy to some meat.

“It’s a completely new form of food allergy in which you eat beef or pork or lamb and three or four hours later, you develop hives,” says Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, an allergist. He is leading research at the University of Virginia, and says he was a victim himself.

“Wow, this is really true. You know, when you have something really happen to you, you really get it. And since then we have become aware of 1000 cases,” Dr. Platts-Mills says.

Researchers say about 90 percent of the patients who reacted after eating beef, pork or lamb had a history of tick bites.

It’s unclear how many bites and how long it takes for the allergy to develop.

Symptoms include hives, itching, swelling, and even more life threatening, anaphylactic shock. They can appear six hours after eating, which is slower than most food allergies.

“I would say we are 98 percent sure that the lone star tick can do this,” says Dr. Platts-Mills.

The Center for Disease Control says the lone star tick is found in the South and along the East Coast including Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“Makes you kind of scared to go out in the woods,” says Lynn Hanson in Philadelphia.

“It’s scary, that means we have to provide ourselves with extra protection, especially when we’re camping or doing outdoor activities,” agrees Keisha Conkey, also in Philadelphia.

Researchers say the ticks did not cause reactions to poultry, only pork, lamb and beef. They still don’t know exactly how or why the tick bite might trigger the allergy.

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