UVA Health doctor alleviating fear of developing red meat allergy from tick bite
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A bite from a certain type of tick causes some people to develop a red meat allergy, and some are concerned of getting it in central Virginia.
“A positive alpha-gal blood test doesn’t automatically mean that you can’t ever eat red meat, but it means you’re at risk,” Doctor Jeff Wilson with UVA Health said Monday, August 28.
Dr. Wilson says 15% to 20% of people tested in this part of the commonwealth have an alpha-gal blood marker, but that doesn’t mean they’re allergic.
“I don’t want 15-to-20% of the folks freaking out because they have a positive blood test, but it is a risk factor. You’re clearly at risk if you have it,” the doctor said.
He says some of those risks are consistent with other kinds of food allergies: Itchy hives, swelling, cramping, and diarrhea.
This summer, the CDC released a report on the suspected numbers of tick bites across the country.
“I think the CDC papers put a number on it. It doesn’t mean it’s actually increased over the past five or 10 years, it just means this is one of the first times we’ve had a number,” Dr. Wilson said.
The CDC papers show numbers from 2017 to 2022. Dr. Wilson says that report doesn’t show numbers rising in 2023.
“I think the media has picked up on the CDC report to say that alpha-gal is increasing a lot in our community, and I’m not sure that’s true. What I do think is true is that there hasn’t been good epidemiology studies of alpha-gal to sort of figure out the frequency and prevalence in the community,” Dr. Wilson said.
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