Tick ​​that can cause meat allergies found in Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI — A specific kind of tick that can cause a red meat allergy has been confirmed in Kalamazoo County.

Once relatively rare in Michigan, the Lone Star tick started to be more commonly found in the Lower Peninsula in the last decade.

During a routine tick drag on Friday, May 20, a Lone Star tick was identified in Kalamazoo County, officials with the Kalamazoo County Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release.

Lone Star ticks are a tick that has a distinctive white “Lone Star” marking on its back.

The tick is known to cause Alpha-Gal syndrome which is an allergic reaction associated with the consumption of red meat, county health officials said.

The tick will readily bite people and animals and is also a vector of human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, Heartland virus, Bourbon virus, and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI).

Alpha-gal syndrome, also called alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, or tick bite meat allergy, is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Symptoms occur after people eat red meat or are exposed to other products containing alpha-gal, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

This tick is not known to be a vector of Lyme disease, according to the local health department.

It is typically found in the Eastern, Southeastern, and South-Central portions of the United States but is known to occur in southern Michigan and has also been identified in the past few years in other counties throughout Michigan.

“Preventing tick bites is essential to preventing tick-borne disease, including using insect repellant with DEET and performing tick checks on yourself, children and pets,” said Lucus Pols, Environmental Health division chief.

Environmental Health will continue to perform vector-disease surveillance in Kalamazoo County, including tick drags and mosquito trapping.

The county suggests these steps to reduce diseases from ticks:

• Empty and wash all outdoor containers that collect water (small pools, feeding bowls, open rain collection barrels, buckets, birdbaths, etc.) at least once a week.

• Keep swimming pools properly treated to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds.

• Keep trash containers properly covered.

• Use and repair screens on your home windows.

• Wear tall socks, pants and long sleeves when outdoors, especially from dusk to dawn.

• Use insect repellent with DEET and registered by the EPA on skin and treat clothing with permethrin to repel biting insects. Always follow label directions.

Tick ​​drags are being performed this summer by Environmental Health to capture and identify blacklegged ticks which are known to transmit Lyme disease.

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