Allergic to MEAT?! It’s Happening Thanks to Climate Change | Hot Mess ?

Picture this, one afternoon you’re at your
best friend’s backyard barbeque, enjoying a freshly grilled hamburger, then later that
night, you’re on the ground, barely breathing… because guess what?! You’ve become allergic to meat. The culprit? A tick bite. Thanks to climate change, critters like these
are expanding their ranges, and their seasons are getting longer — meaning they have more
space and more time to take a bite out of you or me. [OPEN] Could you really wake up one day and be allergic
to red meat? Yeah. If a certain tick, like this Lone Star tick,
munches on a mammal, and then bites you, it can pass a special sugar called Alpha-Gal
from that other mammal directly into your bloodstream. Your body doesn’t make Alpha-Gal, and for
some reason, it files it away as a threat, so the next time you munch on something that
has Alpha-Gal in it, your body freaks out. Currently, the risk of developing a meat allergy
is very low, but climate change might help these tiny monsters cross paths with more
people. Most ticks are limited by cold winters, so
as our winters warm up, they can thrive in more places and be active during more of the
year. And getting a meat allergy is just one of
many ways ticks can make you sick. The black legged tick, for example, can give
you Lyme disease, which can weaken you for life. The number of US counties home to black-legged
ticks more than doubled in the past 20 years. In fact, the relationship between climate
change and Lyme disease is so strong that the US Environmental Protection Agency uses
the number of new cases as an indicator of how the climate is changing. But this isn’t just a North American problem
– Lyme and many other diseasescarried by ticks are expanding around the world. And warmer weather doesn’t just help the
ticks spread; it can also make them more likely to carry disease-causing pathogens. Most of the time these germs live and multiply
in animals, like mice, who can carry the pathogens without getting sick themselves. With warmer winters, more mice survive to
spring, more mice can give their germs to ticks, and a greater number of infected ticks
are waiting around to bite humans. Of course, climate change is just one of many
factors influencing these diseases. And another one of these factors is us. We know to do things like tuck in our socks,
wear bug spray, and check each other chimp-style. But as climate change turns familiar pests
into more formidable foes, in the long run, probably the most important thing we can do
is learn more about these little buggers and the diseases they carry. The first documented case of a tick-induced
meat allergy was less than two decades ago, so we’re still learning about how ticks
make us sick, especially in a changing climate. And once we know more, we’ll hopefully be able to take some of the bite out climate change.

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