Home » Legal Notices » Lone star tick heads north with new diseases

Lone star tick heads north with new diseases

A new tick is heading north in Connecticut, and bringing with it a host of new diseases, according to the Center for Vector Biology & Zoonotic Diseases at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in New Haven.

In a news release sent out at the end of June, CAES said that the lone star tick had been found predominantly in the southeastern states until this year, when it began to appear in Fairfield and New Haven counties. 

“As an aggressive human biter with highly irritating bites, the lone star tick has been associated with several human diseases and medical conditions,” according to the news release. 

These diseases include tularemia, ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis, Heartland virus disease, southern tick-associated rash illness, red meat allergy and likely the newly identified Bourbon virus disease.

That the tick causes an allergy to red meat and the new Bourbon virus is unrelated to the name of the tick. It is called lone star because of a white star shape on its small body (which measures less than 1 mm across). 

The red meat allergy is a curious effect of a tick bite. The Mayo Clinic offers a theory on its website that the allergy is caused by a sugar molecule known as alpha-gal that is transmitted into the human host by a lone star tick. 

“Signs and symptoms of an alpha-gal allergic reaction are often delayed compared with other food allergies,” according to the Mayo Clinic article on red meat allergies. “Most reactions to common food allergens — peanuts or shellfish, for example — happen within minutes of exposure. In alpha-gal syndrome, signs and symptoms typically don’t appear for three to six hours after eating red meat.”

There is no cure other than to stop eating red meat. 

The allergic reaction can vary from relatively mild (a runny nose, itchy skin) to potentially fatal (anaphylaxis).

“Doctors think the time delay between eating red meat and developing an allergic reaction is one reason the condition was overlooked until recently: A possible connection between a T-bone steak with dinner and hives at midnight was far from obvious,” the Mayo Clinic article says. 

Bourbon virus, another new disease associated with the lone star tick, is named for the county in Kansas where it was first identified. 

This disease is still relatively unknown. The symptoms seem to be “fever, tiredness, rash, headache, other body aches, nausea and vomiting,” according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). People diagnosed with the virus also “had low blood counts for cells that fight infection and help prevent bleeding.”

The CDC, the Mayo Clinic and CAES all say that the best way to avoid any of the diseases associated with the lone star tick is to avoid bites. 

If you spend a lot of time outside in areas where ticks are likely to be found, the CDC recommends that you treat your clothing with permethrin, and that you wear insect repellent. The Environmental Protection Agency has a list of recommended insect repellents for adults and for children over the age of 3. The list includes products “containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone.” 

To find the EPA search tool to help you choose a product, go to www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you.

The CDC also recommends taking a soapy shower within two hours of coming inside from spending time in an area where ticks might live. A full body tick check is also recommended; ticks often hide in crooks and crevices of the body, around the ears and in folds of skin.

Philip Armstrong, a Virologist/Medical Entomologist with CAES, also reminds anyone spending time outdoors to “wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Clothing material should be light-colored and tightly woven. And tuck pant legs into socks.”

More Information

TriCorner News

Copyright The Lakeville Journal
PO Box 1688, Lakeville, CT 06039
All Rights Reserved