'No need to panic': Meat-allergy-causing tick spotted in Manitoba not the first one
Another tick species has been spotted in Manitoba.
Jason Miller said following a walk on Canada Day he noticed a tick crawling across his hand.
“When I took a closer look at it, I could tell it was like no tick I had ever seen in my life,” he said.
A Facebook post from Centennial Animal Hospital in Winnipeg said a female lone star tick was spotted in the Southdale area.
“Although this species of tick are not common in Manitoba, they are here,” the post says. “Please ensure that you are checking yourself and your pets after any outside activities.”
The post has a picture of the tick, which has a yellow-ish colour dot on its back.
Though scientists can’t completely explain it, a bite from a lone star tick can cause an allergy to alpha-gal, a carbohydrate found in red meat. The allergic reaction can lead to hives, vomiting, and diarrhea and there is no known cure other than to not eat the meat.
Those who have been diagnosed with the allergy have been mostly living in the southeast United States but newer cases have been found in Minnesota and New Hampshire. Cases have also been found in Europe and Australia, which leads some experts to believe other ticks can spread the condition as well.
University of Manitoba associate professor of entomology Kateryn Rochon told CTV News that even though finding one is rare, lone star ticks have been found almost every year in Manitoba.
“There's no evidence so far that these ticks have established here, or that we have local populations,” she said. “One of my students found two at Beaudry Park in 2014, for example, and those were not the first ones, either.”
Rochon said lone star ticks do not transmit Lyme disease, but they can be infected with the bacteria causing Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, adding that not all ticks are infected.
As for the red meat allergy, Rochon said this does not happen with all bites.
“While we know what people become allergic to, we don't have a good grasp of what causes some lone star ticks to cause this allergy,” she said. “Also, only a small proportion of the human population is susceptible to developing this allergy.
“There is no need to panic,” she added. “Adopting safe habits to prevent tick bites will protect from all species of ticks.”
Some precautions include using appropriate tick repellents, frequent tick checks, and removing any tick found attached.
A provincial spokesperson told CTV News they have been notified and surveillance staff will be out to conduct tick surveillance in the area in which the lone star tick was thought to be collected Friday.
Lone star ticks and animals
Veterinarian Dr. Ron Worb said he hasn’t had a pet come into his clinic with the lone star tick, but has heard others in Manitoba have.
“It’s not anywhere in the same numbers or frequency as the deer tick,” he said.
Worb notes there is more of a chance of a human getting sick from a deer tick, compared to a dog.
“There’s a 90 per cent likelihood people could become ill if they’re bitten by a deer tick carrying Lyme disease where there is only maybe a 10 per cent likelihood dogs will become ill,” he said.
He said animals could be exposed first, because they are better targets for ticks.
“If we know pets are positive that means they’re certainly in an area where they are being exposed to these ticks carrying different diseases and we can then be on the lookout for ourselves.”
- With files from CTVNews.ca and CTV News London’s Celine Moreau