Reporter: Dhomonique Ricks l Videographer: Sally Goin
Bedford County, Va - What do red meat and tick bites have in common? When combined, they can cause allergic reactions for some people. This meat allergy caused by tick bites can, in some cases be potentially life threatening.
Doctor's say the allergy is poorly understood. It is a carbohydrate or sugar molecule which is present on a variety of red meat. It's unique because most allergens are proteins. It takes awhile for symptoms to develop. Allergy Partners of Lynchburg says normally the body reacts to an allergen instantly. This allergy, however, takes four to eight hours to kick in.
Bedford County resident, Barry Slaughter will not get to enjoy his deer steaks anymore.
"Sad I can't eat it," said Slaughter.
He just found out through blood work Monday, they and other red meats are the cause of more than a dozen allergic reactions he has had in the past.
"Every square inch of my body had hives. I never ever experienced anything like that," said Slaughter.
Slaughter says that was not his worst reaction. Two years ago, he almost died.
"I lost my color vision. Virtually went blind. I couldn't stand up," said Slaughter. "I became paralyzed on the floor in the bathroom and I couldn't get up to get the phone which we have in the bathroom."
Slaughter was home alone. His wife was out of town. He says he could barely breathe and went in and out of consciousness.
"I tried to get up and it was impossible," said Slaughter.
He had to sit and wait five hours until his body began to function again. According to allergists, his case is extreme. Allergy Partners of Lynchburg have seen a lot of cases lately.
"As many as 10 in a week," said Dr. Joey Lane, Allergy Partners of Lynchburg.
Dr. Lane says the disease is caused by the Lone Star tick, which is prevalent in the Commonwealth. A recent tick bite, combined with beef, pork, lamb, deer meet, or bison can cause a strong reaction.
"They'll develop itching, or hives, or welts, followed by swelling of the lips, tongue. Some people will also have trouble breathing," said Dr. Lane.
He says the allergy is still poorly understood but allergists are learning more about it every day. Dr. Lane says he is not aware of any fatalities.
The only treatment is to avoid red meat. Allergy Partners of Lynchburg will be a study site for upcoming clinical trials by University of Virginia specialists.