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Tick new to Maine causes red meat allergy

If bitten by the Lone Star Tick, you could form an allergy that will cause serious symptoms after eating red meat.

SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- In Maine we know to check ourselves and our pets for ticks when we come in from the outdoors, but now there's a new species to watch for.

The Lone Star Tick is most prominent in southern states. There have however been more cases of the tick being found in parts of Maine. Not as many as in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but even a few cases are enough for Chuck Lubelczyk at Maine Medical Center's Research Institute to pay attention.

"A handful of these ticks are dropped in Maine from migratory song birds coming up during spring migration and historically our thought was that our winters up here were far too cold for them to be safe to survive, so we never had an established population of them," said Lubelczyk.

Chuck Lubelczyk studies ticks at Maine Medical Center's Research Institute.

Lone Star Ticks don't pass on an infectious disease, but they do however cause an allergy to red meat called Alpha-Gal. Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer is an allergist in Scarborough who has seen the symptoms with one of her patients.

"They start to feel that their throat is closing, they may feel weak, light headed and often may get nausea, vomiting, respiratory symptoms," said Dr. Pennoyer. "So typical symptoms that we call anaphylaxis."

Dr. Marguerite Pennoyer

Dr. Pennoyer was unable to confirm if the cause of those symptoms was a Lone Star Tick, but even one case is enough to cause concern with allergists and scientists.

"These ticks, where they get established, they become the game changer for ticks," said Lubelczyk. "They occur in really high numbers and the bite is reportedly painful as well."

If you find a Lone Star Tick, you should reach out to Maine Medical Center's Research Institute at ticklab@mmc.org, or you can also reach out to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Orono.