Tick bites cause meat allergies

Posted at 7:39 AM, Jun 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-12 07:54:26-04

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WCAV) - What if you were told that you can't enjoy a hamburger ever again, or have bacon with your eggs?

It's the prognosis doctors at the University of Virginia are making, after researching a new food allergy, caused by a single tick bite.

"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 of UVA's Allergy and Clinical  Immunology.

It's a mystery that's spreading throughout Central Virginia and beyond, people suddenly develop an allergy to red meat after being bitten. Dr. Platts-Mills says the culprit is likely the Lone Star tick.

Researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what causes the allergy, which was first diagnosed in 2006. Reactions after eating any red meat can include hives, itching, or even more severe reactions which don't become apparent until hours after ingestion.

"People do not get hives until four hours and you have no idea how strange
that is for us as allergists," Dr. Platts-Mills said.

Dr. Platts-Mills is leading groundbreaking research at UVA into the cause of the allergy, in fact he had his first reaction to red meat five years ago,

"This is really true.. You know when you have something really
happen to you yourself... You really get it and since then we have become
aware of 1000 cases."

While research is still developing into just how long the reactions can last, doctors say it should be another reminder for anyone outdoors to take precautions or they could end up with a life-altering illness.

You can help prevent getting a tick bite by wearing long pants, using an insect repellent with DEET, and by checking yourself often for ticks after being outdoors.