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Woman shares story about becoming allergic to red meat after tick bite

Woman shares story about becoming allergic to red meat after tick bite
Woman shares story about becoming allergic to red meat after tick bite 02:09

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- People are becoming allergic to red meat after getting bitten by ticks. According to the CDC, hundreds of thousands of people have developed the allergy alpha-gal syndrome. The allergy causes more issues than just not being able to eat meat.  

Mara Linaberger was able to eat just about anything she wanted, but she started having digestive issues and her husband Michael Haynie thought it might be a food allergy. She was showing symptoms that he heard from science podcasts.  

"It can be a little bit hard to connect the dots unless you're just paying attention," Haynie said.  

Linaberger noticed her issues happened after eating meat and went to her PCP who said to stop eating meat. She then went to an allergist who diagnosed her with alpha-gal syndrome – after having a tick bite. A nutritionist had to put her on an elimination diet.  

"He said that my body was at a crisis point in terms of inflammation," Linaberger said.  

The couple has had to do a lot of research on the internet to learn what all needed to change with their lifestyles.  

"I'll read what people are saying, I'll go and look for the resources," Linaberger said over Zoom.  

It is a dramatic impact, not only can Linaberger not have mammal products like red meat or dairy, she can't have anything made with animal byproduct, which can include food like Jell-O.  

"The easiest way around the allergy is to eat real food, nothing that's been processed. That way you know what you're eating," Linaberger said.  

Linaberger said she's had to be her own advocate as many people don't understand the syndrome or think it's not real. She recently had a surgery and had to work with the medical team to know how all the medical products and medicines for her are made to make sure there is no animal byproduct.  

"They've got to stop what they're doing and look at absolutely everything that's being prescribed," Linaberger told KDKA. 

With a rise in cases, doctors say there is a variety of reasons, but they do point to the lone star tick expanding its range. This coincides with people having more contact with ticks.  

It is believed many people go undiagnosed because they don't realize they have the allergy and mistake it for some other food illness.  

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