OAN’s Taylor Tinsley
4:30 PM – Thursday, July 27, 2023
Thousands of Americans tested positive for a condition that’s triggered by tick bites and are causing allergic reactions to eating red meat.
The CDC warned that alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) is an “emerging public health concern”. Data shows between the years 2010 to 2022 officials identified more than 110,000 cases across the U.S., but research scientists estimate the number may actually be near 450,000.
“Cases of AGS are not nationally notifiable to CDC, so it is not known how many cases of AGS exist in the United States. Additional data and research are needed to understand how many people are affected by this condition.”
According to the newly released research documents, states with established populations of lone star ticks are the most affected. Other kinds of ticks, however, have also been linked to the condition.
AGS is a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic condition. It is not caused by an infection and symptoms can occur within two-to-six hours after people consume red meat or are exposed to other products made from mammals. It’s also known as red meat allergy or tick bite meat allergy.
Alpha-gal patient Bernadine Heller-Greenman told the Associated Press that one of the hardest things about making the diagnosis is that most don’t know when the bite occurred.
“The first sign was a rash that I had that I could never figure out what it was from,” said Heller-Greenman. “A rash on my torso, my thighs, sometimes my thighs, sometimes my arms, but definitely my torso.”
Other symptoms include:
- Hives or itchy rash
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heartburn or indigestion
- Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
- Drop in blood pressure
- Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eyelids
- Dizziness or faintness
- Severe stomach pain
The studies co-author, Johanna Salzer, AGS can be a lifelong condition, but there are a handful of patients who have been able to reintroduce alpha-gel into their diet while avoiding future tick bites.
Health officials say it’s important to raise awareness that AGS is affecting a large number of people in the U.S.. Salzer said sometimes it can be difficult to diagnose someone because of the inconsistency of the symptoms, but emphasized it’s critical for clinicians to be aware of the condition so they can properly evaluate, diagnose, manage and educate their patients.
This could also make red meat the 10th most common food allergy in the United States.
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