Red meat allergy caused by tick bites is on the rise

Main News

LIBERTY, Illinois (WGEM) – For many, summertime cookouts aren’t complete without hamburgers and hot dogs, but for one Illinois man, that isn’t the case anymore after a tick bite.

Farmer Todd Obert is suffering from an allergy to red meat.

Doctor Jason Knuffman at Quincy Medical Group said in the past decade, he’s seen 15-20 cases of the alpha gal, or red meat allergy in patients. The allergy is caused by the spit of ticks that carry the alpha-gal carbohydrate from other mammals they bit in their spit not normally found in old world monkeys, apes, and humans. The allergy was first discovered within the past 15 years and it can change a person’s lifestyle completely.

All kinds of mammal meat can effect a victim’s allergic reaction, from beef, lamb, and even the other white meat, pork. Poultry like chicken or turkey, fish, and other non-mammals also won’t cause and allergic reaction.

“So patients would eat a steak or a cheeseburger for dinner and they would wake up in the middle of the night with hives, swelling, breathing problems,” Dr. Knuffman says.

Obert, who raises cattle with his son and used to like to grill burgers and steak, said he first felt the symptoms the day before Memorial Day.

“I was going back to bed, and it just hit me, the hives…I told my wife, I’m going to take a shower, that’ll probably make me feel better,” Obert recalls, “Next thing I know I was lying on the ground.”

According to Dr. Knuffman, the effects of the tick bite aren’t always immediate, the symptoms could even take years to develop.

“Generally the people that have this problem, they have been bitten by ticks many times and it’s recently,” said Dr. Knuffman, “within the last year or two they’ve had multiple episodes if they’ve been out in the woods.”

Dr. Knuffman said it’s possible to recover from the allergy, but it could take years.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.