(August 1, 2023 – Northwest Bergen Regional Health Commission) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released two publications describing the geographic distribution of Alpha-gal Syndrome (AGS) which is an emerging and potentially life- threatening allergic condition. Alpha-gal can be found in meat (such as pork, beef, rabbit, lamb, and venison) and products made
from mammals (including gelatin, cow’s milk, and milk products).
The CDC also reports that between 2010-2022, there were more than 110,000 suspected cases of AGS. However, because the diagnosis requires a positive diagnostic test and a clinical exam, as many as 450,000 people might be affected by AGS in the United States. In most cases, symptoms appear within 2-6 hours after eating red meat or dairy products or such products containing alpha-gal. Reactions may vary from person-to-person, ranging from mild, severe, and life-threatening. Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- Hives or itchy rash.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Heartburn or indigestion.
- Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
- Drop in blood pressure.
- Swelling of the lips, throat, tongue, or eye lids.
- Dizziness or faintness.
- Severe stomach pain. If you think you have been exposed to AGS, it’s strongly recommended to discuss this with your primary care provider. Please seek immediate emergency care if you are having a severe allergic reaction. Evidence suggests that AGS is primarily associated with the bite of a lone star tick in the United States, however, other kinds of ticks have not been ruled out. Preventing tick bites may reduce your chance of developing AGS.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when performing outdoor activities:
- Before you go outdoors
o Avoid grassy, brushy, and wooded areas, where ticks may be found.
o Walk in the center of trails.
o Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or buy pre-treated items.
o Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents.
- After you come indoors
o Check your clothing for ticks.
o Examine gear and pets for ticks.
o Shower and perform a thorough tick check.
o If you see an attached tick, remove it immediately by using clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
Please visit https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/topics/alphagal.shtml for more information.