Here’s the good news about the lone star tick: it won’t give you Lyme disease.
Here’s the bad news: everything else.
Named for the Texas-shaped white splash on its back, the lone star tick has set itself apart from the rest of its eight-legged peers by doing two things:
- Making its bite victims develop an allergy to red meat that can be deadly.
- Spreading across the U.S. at an alarming rate.
Described by the CDC as “a very aggressive tick that bites humans” which is “widely distributed in the southeastern and eastern United States,” the lone star tick possesses a bite that can lead to redness and discomfort as well as also cause its victims to develop a life-threatening allergy to a type of sugar molecule that’s found in meat, according to Wired.
Known as Alpha-Gal syndrome, the meat allergy produces symptoms like hives, itching and swelling, gastrointestinal distress, difficulty breathing and even death. “There’s something really special about this tick,” immunology researcher Jeff Wilson told the magazine. “Just a few bites and you can render anyone really, really allergic.”
If that’s not enough to warm your heart, it also appears that the tick is spreading as diagnosed cases of Alpha-Gal syndrome have been reported in places (Minnesota, New Hampshire, Long Island) where the lone star was not previously believed to be prevalent.
Although it will be tough to remember after a bacon-induced break out, the one bright side is that the allergy isn't believed to be permanent and will fade with time, USA Today reported.
To learn more about why the tick is spreading, and the hellish vegetarian nightmare that ensues after being bit, check out this podcast from the good folks at Radiolab.