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More People Diagnosed With Tick Bite Related Meat Allergy

Posted: Jul 19, 2011 4:39 PM EDT

Reporter Danner Evans l Videographer: Dan Heffner

Lynchburg, VA - A strange allergy keeps on spreading right in our back yard. People are showing up in doctors offices after a reaction to meat and experts say tick bites are to blame. Right now, those numbers are really growing.
We first told you about the Alpha-gal allergy right here on ABC 13 News, now we have some new developments that every one needs to hear.
The first time Alice Muller had a reaction was ten years ago.
"The first time they were literally all over me," Muller said. "Every inch of skin had a bump on it.It was terrifying."
She ended up in the ER but never got any reason as to why it happened. That was 10 years ago.
"By process of elimination realized it was happening on the same day I was eating beef," Muller explained.

Then a friend recently showed her a story about the mysterious beef allergy caused by a tick bite called Alpha Gal.
"It was definitely comforting that I wasn't the only one out there and this was a legit allergy," Muller said.
Muller, like a whole lot of other people, landed in the office of allergist Dr. Joseph Lane. He's seeing a lot more people right now complaining of the same allergic reaction to meat.
"Typically it's 2-3 times a week. Sometimes 10 (new patients)," Lane said.
He expects to see a whole lot more in the weeks to come.
"Typically as the weather gets nice people tend to get outside that's when they start to get bit by ticks. Generally we see them with reactions about a month or so later."
Those reactions are something to take very seriously because the severe cases can stop your breathing, or worse.
"I think with this increasing in frequency we're probably more likely to see someone have a severe reaction that could potentially be fatal," Lane said.
Dr. Lane also believes there is a very good chance that if you haven't been bitten by a tick in awhile you might grow out of this allergy. The thing is when you're living in the mountains of Virginia the chances that you aren't bitten by a tick are very slim.
That's why Muller plans on playing it safe.
"Anything on 4 legs I will not be eating," Muller said. "It will be turkey burgers from here on out."
A lot is still unknown about why a tick bite makes some people allergic. Experts believe the Lone Star tick is behind it all and theorize that its bite makes some allergic to a sugar compound that is also found in the meat of four legged animals.
Reactions happen three to six hours after you've eaten meat, so a lot of people have a hard time pinpointing what is making them sick.