If you like eating meat, watch out for this bug

CHARLOTTE — It may sound strange, a disease that could make you allergic to meat.

But it’s real, and it’s being spread by a type of tick that’s already common here in the South.

It’s called the Lone Star tick, and if you enjoy eating hamburgers and steaks, you’ll want to protect yourself from the bug’s nasty bite.

Dean Cecil knows the experience firsthand. He kept experiencing an outbreak of hives and didn’t know why.

“We finally figured out that it was from eating beef or a hamburger,” Cecil said.

Even more bizarre, his doctor told him the cause of the allergy was a tick bite.

“I pulled the tick off of me, it was a light brown tick with a white dot on its back,” Cecil said.

The Lone Star tick’s most distinctive feature is its star-like white splotch, found on adult females.

Lone Star Tick

While other ticks spread germs that cause more widely known diseases like Lyme, a bite from this species can cause a whole range of issues. That includes ehrlichiosis, which if left untreated, can damage the brain or nervous system; or the Heartland virus, which can cause fever, fatigue and joint pain.

Lone Star ticks used to be found mostly in the southeastern U.S. but that’s changing.

“With a warming climate and especially with the growth of local deer populations, many northern states and even parts of Canada are becoming a lot more hospitable to these ticks,” said Catherine Roberts with Consumer Reports.

When it comes to protecting yourself against ticks, take the following tips:

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants when hiking through brush or high grass.
  • Check yourself frequently for ticks.
  • If hiking with a dog, check them for ticks before they get in a vehicle or tent.
  • Use insect repellant thoroughly. The most effective repellants contain 25-30% DEET as their active ingredient, but another good measure is spraying your clothing with an insecticide containing “permethrin.”

(VIDEO: Researchers discover ticks carrying rare virus in several states)

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