As if Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever weren’t enough, scientists have recently found that ticks can spread other diseases and can even cause people to have allergic reactions to meat.
Two men from northwestern Missouri were infected by a novel virus in 2009, and scientists recently traced it to populations of lone star ticks in the region. The findings were published online today in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (click here for press release). Dubbed Heartland virus or HRTV, the infection causes fever, headaches, and low white blood cell and platelet counts. The two men were sufficiently ill to require hospitalization. They eventually recovered, and no other cases have been reported. Disease experts anticipate, however, that more people could become infected. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services is working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify additional cases and determine the role of this novel virus as a human pathogen.
Besides spreading diseases, it has also been discovered recently that lone star ticks can cause food allergies. Researchers have found that bites from the ticks can cause some people to become allergic to red meat. The allergic reactions range from vomiting and abdominal cramps to hives to anaphylaxis, which can lead to breathing difficulties and sometimes even death. This was recently reported by the Wall Street Journal, and they also produced a video about it (click here for full article and video).