Between 2010 and 2022, more than 110,000 probable instances of the tick-borne disease known as alpha-gal were discovered.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released two new findings on Thursday that revealed an increase in the number of cases of alpha-gal syndrome, with an estimated 450,000 Americans suffering from the ailment.

People who have the tick-borne illness known as alpha-gal syndrome may experience allergic reactions after eating red meat, which includes meat from cows, deer, pigs, and goats. The allergy may pose a serious threat to life.

According to Dr. Ann Carpenter, epidemiologist and the lead author of one of the publications, the alpha-gal syndrome is a significant growing public health problem with potentially serious health effects that may last a lifetime for some patients.

Clinicians must be knowledgeable about AGS to effectively assess, diagnose, and manage their patients. They must also instruct them on tick-bite prevention to prevent patients from having this allergic illness.

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Although persons with the allergy have detailed their experiences and said they were unaware that it may be related to food, health officials have stated that they are not aware of any proven deaths due to alpha-gal at this time.

Because it occurred hours after eating, one patient, Bernadine Heller-Greenman, claimed, “I never connected it with any food.”

Here, we examine the definition of alpha-gal syndrome and how tick bites and particular foods might cause it.

Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) – what is it?

The CDC classifies AGS as a potentially fatal allergy illness that is hazardous. AGS is also known by the labels alpha-gal allergy, red meat allergy, and tick-bite allergy.

Alpha-gal enters the saliva of ticks that feed on mammals, usually the lone star tick, and can then be transmitted to humans through a tick bite.

When the body becomes infected with alpha-gal, it perceives it as an outside invader and produces antibodies that cause the immune system to develop an allergy to it. An infected person may get severe illness after ingesting something that contains alpha-gal.

What signs or symptoms indicate AGS?

Reports state that symptoms frequently appear two to six hours after consuming meat, or dairy products, or coming into contact with products that may contain alpha-gal.

Depending on the individual, AGS reactions can range from mild to severe or even life-threatening.

The CDC lists a few possible reactions, such as:

• Hives or a rash that itches

• Vomiting or nauseous

• Acid reflux or indigestion

• Constipation

• Coughing, breathing problems, or shortness of breath

  • Reduced blood pressure

• Lip, tongue, throat, or eyelid swelling

• Feeling weak or dizzy

• Profound abdominal pain

Can a tick bite cause AGS?

The CDC has stated that you can develop AGS via tick bites, and while there is evidence linking the syndrome to lone star tick bites in the US, other types of ticks have not been completely ruled out.

Other tick species have been linked to the emergence of AGS in other nations, according to the CDC. The cause of this ailment, ticks, and the reasons why some people acquire AGS require further study.

What measures can I take to stop AGS?

The first thing you should do is avoid getting bitten by ticks because this lowers your risk of having AGS.

When you walk outside, the CDC suggests that you should:

• Steer clear of areas with grass, bushes, or trees where ticks may be present.

• Stick to the paths’ middle.

• Apply tick insect repellent to clothing and equipment.

Upon entering a building, you should:

• Look for ticks on your clothing.

• Check your equipment and pets for ticks.

• Take a shower and thoroughly check for ticks.

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When I have AGS, what should I do?

According to the CDC, AGS should be treated by an allergist or other healthcare professional. You will need to work with your doctor to determine which goods you should avoid since many products contain alpha-gal.

What meal contains alpha-gal?

Meat from mammals, including beef, pork, lamb, venison, and rabbit, contains alpha-gal. The organ meat of mammals, such as the liver, lung, heart, kidneys, intestines (tripe), sweetbreads, scrapple, & Rocky Mountain or prairie oysters typically contain large amounts of alpha-gal. Alpha-gal content in different meats may vary.

It is also frequently found in milk and milk-based products.

Eggs, fish, shrimp, and other seafood as well as fruits and vegetables and poultry such as chicken, turkey, duck, or quail do not contain alpha-gal.