Ticks are out in force this year, and there's one species in particular you should watch out for if you'd ever like to eat meat again. Experts say the lone star tick appears to be spreading from its home base in the southeastern US. Whereas other ticks can spread ailments such as Lyme disease, the lone star tick is bothersome because it is believed to trigger a potentially life-threatening and apparently lifelong meat allergy with its bite. The tick doesn't technically make people allergic to meat, but rather to a sugar molecule found in red meat known as alpha-gal. This alpha-gal allergy has typically been limited to the southeastern US, where the lone star tick is prevalent, but no more, reports Wired.
Cases—in which the consumption of meat can result in hives, difficulty breathing, or death—have been reported in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New York, per Inverse. Long Island has seen at least 100 cases in the last year. Researchers suspect the spread of the allergy coincides with the spread of lone star ticks, though it's also possible that other ticks are responsible. Either way, "the nuisance level [for lone star ticks] is much higher than the black-legged tick," an expert tells the Weston Forum. "It is aggressive and very abundant." Researchers are currently studying the effect of a lone star tick bite on mice to determine why it triggers the allergy. (A toddler died after a tick bite.)