Local News

A warning from Troxler: Wear your DEET this summer

Posted April 23, 2018 6:29 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina's chief farmer has sworn off red meat and pork all because of a tick bite.

North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, who was bitten by a Lone Star tick last summer while on his farm, is now warning people to protect themselves from ticks.

"I cannot eat barbecue, pork or beef, or any mammal, meat from any mammal," he said.

He discovered his allergy after a February trip to Brazil, where he ate a lot of steak. Now, if Troxler eats red meat, a bad rash forms on his back, and he develops a high fever.

"I started to narrow it down. What in the world was I doing to cause this reaction? And the only thing I was doing was eating lunch," he said.

The Lone Star tick's saliva carries an antibody to a certain sugar found in beef, pork and lamb, making a person allergic to that sugar.

Once found just in the extreme southern U.S., the tick now lives as far north as Maine. But scientists say most people bitten don't suffer a meat allergy.

"People should be aware of tick bites," Troxler said.

Troxler is consulting a food allergist about what can be done to overcome his bad reaction to meat.

North Carolina State University veterinarian Dr. Ed Breitschwerdt said some people, after a few years, might be able to eat red meat and pork again. He urges people to wear insect repellent with DEET to keep ticks off.