CDC shows illnesses from tick bites on the rise

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COLUMBIA – The warm summer months are great for exploring the outdoors, but research shows you might want to be more careful to avoid tiny pests in the grass-  especially ticks.

Data recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows illnesses from tick, flea and mosquito bites have tripled from 2004-2016.

Some illnesses are less serious than others, but that’s not the case for Kaley Williams. One tick bite changed her life.

She has to watch what she eats, and it’s all from a bite from the small pest.

“I cannot have any mammal meat, which out of my diet, it just consisted of beef and pork being taken out,” she said.

Williams has Alpha-Gal, which is an allergy that develops from a Lone Star Tick bite. People with Alpha-Gal cannot eat meat from mammals, and if they do, it’s usually not good.

“My heart races, my blood pressure drops, I turn beat red and it gets hard to breathe,” Williams said.  

MU Health Care Allergist Dr. Christine Franzese studies Alpha-Gal. She said Williams’ reactions are similar to most others with the allergy. She also said people can get nauseous and dizzy.

She said the allergy develops when the Lone Star Tick bites a mammal, then bites a human.

“Theory is, some blood is still left on the tick’s jaws, and it bites a person and transmits some of that blood into your serum. You get exposed to that mammal blood and develop an allergy to that sugar that’s not present in our body,” Franzese said.  

Williams said she was most likely bitten by the tick when she was 16. She said she spent four years going to different doctors trying to figure out why she was having strange reactions, and came to find out she had Alpha-Gal.

Franzese said doctors are becoming more aware of the allergy. She said it’s relatively new to the world of medicine, but it’s being researched more and more each year.

There currently isn’t a cure for Alpha-Gal, but Franzese said the allergy usually eventually goes away.

Williams said that until when, and if that happens, she plans on eating chicken and fish.

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