Add the lone star tick to the list of health hazards on the Appalachian Trail, the list that already contains things like Giardia, Lyme Disease, and hantavirus. What makes this particular tick such a danger to thru-hikers? Its bite can make the victim allergic to meat!
According to io9.com, “A single bite from a lone star tick can significantly raise antibodies to alpha-gal, a sugar carbohydrate found in beef, pork and lamb, and the elevated antibodies cause a meat allergy.”
Now, I know there are already vegetarians and vegans who successfully complete a thru-hike, but for most AT thru-hikers, the vision of a thick, juicy hamburger can sometimes be the only incentive that gets them through a tough section of trail. The appetite for huge quantities of greasy meat is part of the trail culture. During my hike, I never heard anyone dreaming about getting to town to ingest a plate of tofu.
What happens if you get bit by the lone star tick and then eat meat? The io9.com website reports, “Symptoms can include hives, vomiting, asthma, headache, and in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock, leading to death.”
The lone star tick is mostly in the southern and central US, but they’ve been spotted as far north as Maine. So be alert out there. Be vigilant in your tick checks, unless you want to experience forced vegetarianism.
Photo from usa.gov