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How prevalent is the lone star tick in Minnesota?

Good Question: Should Minnesotans worry about the lone star tick?
Good Question: Should Minnesotans worry about the lone star tick? 02:41

FRIDLEY, Minn. – An insect bite could keep you from taking a bite out of your favorite foods.

The CDC reports hundreds of thousands of people now have a meat allergy after getting bitten by the lone star tick.

We're taught where ticks lurk (high grass, brush, wooded areas), to be mindful (check your body after walking through tick areas), and which species are most likely to latch in our region (deer tick, wood tick).

There is a third tick, however, that's grabbing headlines and has been found in Minnesota.

The lone star tick gets its name from the sometimes star-shaped white spot on its back. It's brown in color, similar to wood and deer ticks.

"It's still a really uncommon tick [in Minnesota]," said Elizabeth Schiffman, an epidemiologist for the Minnesota Department of Health. "We've never been able to find established populations of these lone star ticks. And our other partners in the state from university or other places also have not."

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The insect has a foothold to our south and east, extending up through Iowa and Illinois, down to Texas, and over to the East Coast. It has occasionally been found in Minnesota. 

"They can get brought in on birds or other animals that migrate," said Schiffman.

What is the great concern about the lone star tick?

"It definitely can transmit tick-borne diseases, different ones than the ones we have here. But the reason the lone star tick has really been making news a lot in recent years is because of its association to an allergy," she said.


A bite from the lone star tick could lead to Alpha-gal Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening allergy toward meat -- including beef and pork -- as well as dairy products that contain milk.

The CDC reports at least 110,000 suspected cases in the U.S., but the estimated number is closer to half a million.

If you're worried about ticks, the good news is they're not very prevalent right now. It's too hot outside. Their peak season was back in May and June. But they will re-emerge again when it gets cooler in the fall, right around hunting season.

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Until then, Schiffman is reminding people to cover up their skin, use repellent that has DEET or permethrin, and check your body after a trip through a tick's feeding grounds.

"This news is just kind of one more reason why we want people to take tick prevention seriously because nobody wants to get an allergy that is gonna really change how they approach life," she said.

If you have a meat allergy and think it's from a tick bite, experts say to visit your doctor. You might then be directed to an allergist to be tested for Alpha-gal syndrome.

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