Tick bite-induced allergy cases on rise in Tri-State

Tick bite-induced allergy cases on rise in Tri-State
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 7:27 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - A recent report from the CDC shows more than 100,000 people have developed a red-meat allergy since 2010 because of a syndrome caused by a bite from a tick.

Alpha-Gal syndrome is caused by the saliva of a lone star tick.

Deaconess Immunologist and Allergist Dr. Majed Koleilat said cases in the area have been growing since he diagnosed his first case as late as 2008.

Koleilat said the allergy can include all mammal meats, gelatin products, some medicines and even dairy. Reactions to these products can range from mild to severe.

“It can go just from generalized abdominal unease to some fatigue and aches and pains, but it could also be the full-blown allergic reaction,” he said.

Dr. Koleilat said anyone who goes outside can be at risk of contracting Alpha-Gal.

“The risk factor is being outside. You could be outside for half an hour and be bitten by a tick or you could spend your whole life outside and not be bitten by a tick,” he said. “It’s you, trees, ticks and your luck.”

Evansville native Mark Schminke said he feels unlucky to have developed the allergy not just once but twice in his lifetime. He said he was first bitten by a lone star in 2007 and after a few years worked with his allergist to get back to a normal diet.

Schminke says he was bitten again a few years later.

“To get it is like winning a small lottery, to get it twice is like winning the Powerball,” Schminke said. “And I didn’t win the right Powerball.”

Despite taking precautions, Schminke said recognized the symptoms of Alpha-Gal immediately after he was bitten by a tick for the second time during a fishing trip.

“I wasn’t in the woods at all, I was in a boat in the middle of the lake and got bitten. So, you can take all the precautions in the world, but you can’t always take all of them,” Schminke said.

However, as the population living with the allergy grows, Schminke said it has become easier to live with the diet--especially with the rise of several Alpha-Gal social media blogs sharing recipes and information on the syndrome.

Schminke said he and his wife have come up with several red-meat alternatives to enjoy including ostrich and emu steaks that they special order from small farms across the country.