If you've stepped outside lately you may have noticed an increase in mosquitos and biting flies. All the rainy weather we have seen so far this year, combined with the warmer-than-average winter we saw means more biting and annoying insects. Another biting insect that you might NOT have noticed yet, but is just as prevalent this year are ticks. One tick, not native to Minnesota, has been reported already in 35 counties. Here's what you need to know about this invasive, and potentially deadly tick.

The Lone Star Tick, which gets its name from a white spot on its back, has been reported now in 35 different Minnesota counties including Stearns, Benton, Mille Lacs, Wright, Anoka, and Sherburne Counties.

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that "this tick is commonly found in the southern U.S. but its distribution range has been expanding northward in recent years. Rare and sporadic reports of lone star ticks have been reported in Minnesota, but this tick is not widely established in the state. The lone star tick is capable of spreading certain diseases, like ehrlichiosis, to animals and humans."

(See a listing of counties in Minnesota where a Lone Star Tick has been reported.)

Unlike with a 'normal' tick bite, where you might have to worry about contracting Lime disease, a Lone Star tick can give it's victim a different type of disease. That disease is called alpha-gal syndrome, which makes the infected person seemingly allergic to red meat.

Specifically, it's a reaction to a sugar molecule found in most mammals. So what would someone with this Lone Star tick-transmitted disease do to someone? 

People with alpha-gal syndrome may experience allergic reactions to pork, beef, rabbit, lamb and venison as well as gelatin, cow's milk and milk products.  Symptoms commonly appear two to six hours after eating meat or dairy products or after exposure to products containing alpha-gal (for example, gelatin-coated medications).

Some of the symptoms are:

  • Hives or itchy rash
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Heartburn or indigestion
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue or eyelids

While many Minnesotans enjoy getting out and exploring during the warmer months, we should still take precautions against biting insects, especially those spreading disease. Reduce your risk of being exposed to ticks and tick bites by wearing long sleeved, or long pants with walking in grassy areas, and you can also use permethrin on your clothes to detract the ticks.

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