Usually a tick bite stokes fears of contracting Lyme Disease, but a new tick has entered Minnesota that has quite a different effect – it makes you allergic to red meat.
A bite from the lone star tick and you can forget bacon, a juicy steak, burgers and pulled pork, and the spread of the tick has been pronounced since the start of the year.
As MPR reports, the tick was typically found in southeastern U.S. but has since spread up the East Coast to New England, and into the upper Midwest, with the Duluth and North Shore areas of Minnesota seeing cases reported.
Among those impacted is 40-year-old Diane Van Eeckhout, of Nisswa, who developed stomach cramps and rashes that doctors later found to be the result of an allergy to a carbohydrate – a sugar – found in red meat known as "alpha-gal."
What started out as only a few cases nationally has spread to several thousands, with this Wired.com feature highlighting Duluth as one of the lone star tick "hotspots."
It notes that University of Virginia researchers found that something in the tick's saliva triggers human immune systems, leading to a "massive release" of histamines whenever red meat is eaten.
They haven't figured out what that something is, but are eager to find out as the allergy is the only one to affect all humans regardless of their genetic make-up.
The creature is smaller than a deer tick with a round, white spot on its back, WCCO reports, with state health officials suggesting people wear bug spray containing DEET and to check their body after spending time in the woods.
Department of Health expert David Neitzel says the state has received "several dozen" cases of Lone Star ticks, which have been found in various parts of the state, but most of these have been found in the past 5-10 years.