Beware the Lone Star tick

Most by now are aware of the risk of Lyme disease, a bacterial diseased transmitted through deer ticks. But a relatively new tick has been found with increasing frequency in Canada — and the fallout of its bite is also serious. A bite from the Lone Star tick — named for the single white dot on the backs found on mature females — has been associated with people developing an anaphylactic allergy to red meat.

While the Lone Star tick is not new to Canada, there is certainly increased awareness of its presence and potential danger, says Shaun Dergousoff, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Lethbridge, Alta. Because of the correlation to a red meat allergy, mainstream media has picked up the story and ran with it. But that’s not a bad thing, Dergousoff says, as awareness of ticks and related illnesses is a benefit to all — livestock included.

For us as humans, good tick-avoidance behaviour works for all tick types, regardless of your geographic region or tick species mix — wood, deer, or Lone Star. Dergousoff adds that tracking and quantifying tick populations and spread is important for human health risks, to be sure, but that the number of ticks matters, too.

Dergousoff’s work is focused on livestock disease. He says ticks can negatively impact several types of livestock, such as cattle. These are blood-sucking insects, and in high numbers can lead to production losses, anemia, and in some cases, death, he says.

Hear from AAFC’s Shaun Dergousoff and RealAgriculture’s Lyndsey Smith talking ticks, the risk of a red meat allergy, and more in this segment from RealAg Radio: 

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