NEW YORK –
More than 100,000 people in the U.S. have become allergic to red meat since 2010 because of a weird syndrome triggered by tick bites, according to a government report released Thursday. But health officials believe many more have the problem and don’t know it.
A second report estimated that as many as 450,000 Americans have developed the allergy. That would make it the 10th most common food allergy in the U.S., said Dr. Scott Commins, a University of North Carolina researcher who co-authored both papers published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials said they are not aware of any confirmed deaths, but people with the allergy have described it as bewildering and terrifying.
“I never connected it with any food because it was hours after eating,” said one patient, Bernadine Heller-Greenman.
The reaction, called alpha-gal syndrome, occurs when an infected person eats beef, pork, venison or other meat from mammals — or ingests milk, gelatin or other mammal products.
It’s not caused by a germ but by a sugar, alpha-gal, that is in meat from mammals — and in tick spit. When the sugar enters the body through the skin, it triggers an immune response and can lead to a severe allergic reaction.
Scientists had seen reactions in patients taking a cancer drug that was made in mouse cells containing the alpha-gal sugar. But in 2011 researchers first reported that it could spread through tick bites, too.
They tied it to the lone star tick, which despite its Texas-themed name is most common in the eastern and southern U.S. (About 4% of all U.S. cases have been in the eastern end of New York’s Long Island.)
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a female Lone Star tick, which despite its Texas-sounding name, is found mainly in the Southeast. (James Gathany/CDC via AP)
One of the studies released Thursday examined 2017-2022 test results from the main U.S. commercial lab looking for alpha-gal antibodies. They noted the number of people testing positive rose from about 13,000 in 2017 to 19,000 in 2022.
Experts say cases may be up for a variety of reasons, including lone star ticks’ expanding range, more people coming into contact with the ticks or more doctors learning about it and ordering tests for it.
But many doctors are not. The second study was a survey last year of 1,500 U.S. primary care doctors and health professionals. The survey found nearly half had never heard of alpha-gal syndrome, and only 5% said they felt very confident they could diagnose it. Researchers used that information to estimate the number of people with the allergy — 450,000.
People with the syndrome can experience symptoms including hives, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness and swelling of the lips, throat, tongue or eye lids. Unlike some other food allergies, which occur soon after eating, these reactions hit hours later.
Some patients have only stomach symptoms, and the American Gastroenterological Association says people with unexplained diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain should be tested for the syndrome.
Doctors counsel people with the allergy to change their diet, carry epinephrine and avoid tick bites.
The allergy can fade away in some people — Commins has seen that happen in about 15% to 20% of his patients. But a key is avoiding being re-bitten.
“The tick bites are central to this. They perpetuate the allergy,” he said.
These ticks were collected by South Street Veterinary Services in Pittsfield, Mass., May 15, 2017. (Ben Garver/The Berkshire Eagle via AP, File)
One of his patients is Heller-Greenman, a 78-year-old New York art historian who spends summers on Martha’s Vineyard. She has grown accustomed to getting bitten by ticks on the island and said she has had Lyme disease four times.
About five years ago, she started experiencing terrible, itchy hives on her back, torso and thighs in the middle of the night. Her doctors concluded it was an allergic reaction, but couldn’t pinpoint the trigger.
She was never a big meat eater, but one day in January 2020 she had a hamburger and then a big, fatty steak the following evening. Six hours after dinner, she woke up nauseated, then suffered terrible spells of vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness. She passed out three times.
She was diagnosed with alpha-gal syndrome shortly after that, and was told to avoid ticks and to stop eating red meat and dairy products. There have been no allergic reactions since.
“I have one grandchild that watches me like a hawk,” she said, making sure she reads packaged food labels and avoids foods that could trigger a reaction.
“I feel very lucky, really, that this has worked out for me,” she said. “Not all doctors are knowledgeable about this.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content
The Key Role of Trustworthy Babysitters in Balancing Work and Family Life
Are you a busy parent in constant pursuit of the elusive work-life balance? We know firsthand how overwhelming and challenging it can be to juggle professional commitments while still having quality time with your children.
That’s why we’re here to discuss an essential ingredient that unlocks the secret to harmony: trustworthy babysitters.
What Characteristics Parents Should Look for When Choosing a Babysitter?
Parents should look for a few key characteristics when choosing a babysitter. A good babysitter should be patient, responsible, and reliable. They should also be comfortable with children and have prior experience caring for them.
Besides, the babysitter must be able to communicate effectively and follow directions well. The babysitter should be someone the parents can trust to care for their children in their absence.
Strategies for Parents to Establish Reasonable Anticipations
As a parent, finding babysitters you can trust to care for your children is vital. However, it is also important to establish reasonable expectations for your babysitters.
Some tips for establishing reasonable expectations for babysitters include:
- Set clear expectations: Sit down with your babysitter to discuss bedtime routines, dietary preferences, and any necessary medications.
- Allow flexibility: While clarity is vital, also provide room for your babysitter to use their judgment and feel comfortable in their role.
- Trust their expertise: Once expectations are set, trust your babysitter’s judgment as a professional caregiver to avoid undermining their authority and creating discomfort in their role.
Determining a Fair Payment Plan
Determine your babysitting budget, factoring in your income and family size, while researching local rates. Account for the babysitter’s experience and qualifications, giving preference to those recommended by trusted sources.
Engage in open negotiations with your chosen babysitter. This aims to find a mutually agreeable arrangement that accommodates both your budget and their needs.
Tips on Finding Trustworthy and Compassionate Caregivers
When seeking a caregiver for your child, to ensure you find the right fit:
- Seek recommendations from trusted sources such as friends, family, and neighbours who may have suggestions for caregivers in your area.
- Conduct online research to review feedback and check references to gauge candidates’ qualifications and experience.
- Request references and contact details from the caregivers’ previous employers or families they have worked with.
- Trust your instincts and ensure you feel at ease with the caregiver, ensuring they are someone you can entrust with your child’s well-being.
Being able to trust your babysitter means you can have peace of mind knowing your child is safe and cared for.
Spending some time researching online reviews or asking friends and family for recommendations will help you find the perfect fit so you can feel more at ease while juggling work commitments in today’s hectic world.
Facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home
THUNDER BAY — St. Joseph’s Care Group and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit have declared a facility-wide COVID-19 outbreak at Bethammi Nursing Home, part of the St. Joseph’s Heritage complex on Carrie Street near Red River Road.
The respiratory outbreak at the 112-bed facility was declared effective Sept. 15 but only announced publicly on Monday.
No details were provided with regard to the number of people affected to date.
Restrictions are now in place for admissions, transfers, discharges, social activities and visitation until further notice.
Alberta COVID hospitalizations up 73% since July: health minister
Three weeks after the start of the school year, Alberta’s health minister provided an update on the spread of airborne viruses in the province.
Adriana LaGrange also said more information about flu and next-generation COVID-19 vaccines will soon be released.
“Now that we will be spending more time indoors, we need to make doubly sure we are following proper hygiene protocols like handwashing and staying home when sick,” LaGrange said. “It also means respecting those who choose to wear a mask.”
Global News previously reported that influenza vaccines will be available on Oct. 16 with the new Moderna vaccine formulated to target the XBB.1.5 variant likely to be available at around the same time. On Sept. 12, Health Canada approved the use of the Moderna vaccine.
“More information on immunizations against respiratory viruses including influenza and COVID-19 will be available shortly,” the health minister said.
LaGrange said there have been 28 cases of influenza and five lab-confirmed cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since Aug. 28.
“This is consistent activity for this time of the year,” the health minister said in a statement.
The end of August or the beginning of September has typically marked the beginning of flu season for provincial health authorities.
LaGrange also provided an update on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the province.
From Aug. 28 to Sept. 8, there were a total 92 new hospitalizations and three ICU admissions, bringing the total to 417 in hospital and seven in ICU, a 73 per cent increase of COVID hospitalizations from the last reported info.
On July 24 – the last update to the province’s COVID data dashboard – there were only 242 in hospital.
“Sadly, five Albertans died during that period due to COVID-19,” LaGrange said.
LaGrange said the reporting dashboard is being refreshed to include RSV, influenza and COVID-19 data, work that was originally expected to be completed on Aug. 30. The latest data on the province’s influenza statistics dashboard is dated July 22.
“This work is currently underway and will be available in the coming weeks,” LaGrange said.
She said data for the dates between July 24 and Aug. 27 will be available when the new dashboard goes online.
Amid more hospitals continent-wide reinstating masking requirements in the face of increased hospitalizations, the health minister made no mention of any such moves for Alberta hospitals. Acute care COVID-19 outbreaks in Alberta jumped from Sept. 5 to 12, with 146 per cent more healthcare workers and 55 per cent more patients testing positive for COVID.
LaGrange stressed the “collective responsibility” to prevent the spread of airborne viruses like COVID and influenza.
“As a mother and grandmother, I understand the anxiety that comes with sending your children back to school. I want to reassure you that Alberta’s government has the health and well-being of all young Albertans top of mind,” the health minister said.
–with files from Meghan Cobb, Global News
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