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Georgia woman contracts meat, mammal product allergy after tick bite

Published: Apr. 16, 2022 at 9:56 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - An outdoor adventure left a Georgia woman with a life-threatening allergy to meat, dairy, soaps, and most mammal byproducts.

Amy Shea has completely restructured her life after contracting Alpha-gal syndrome (AGS) from a tick bite a year and a half ago.

“This is life-threatening. My life has changed completely,” said Shea.

Alpha-gal syndrome is an allergic reaction to products with alpha-gal, a sugar molecule found in most mammals. The allergy is triggered by a Lone Star Tick bite. Lone Star Ticks can be found in the South, Midwest, and Eastern U.S.

Shea said she learned about her diagnosis after eating a pot roast days after the tick bite.

“I took a bite of the roast and about an hour later I started having stomach issues and hives all over my legs,” she said.

Her reaction quickly worsened and sent her to the hospital.

“I went to the ER and was in full anaphylactic shock by then,” she explained.

Shea can’t eat meat, dairy, or other mammal products. She must read every label on food and product packaging – from soaps to makeup. Her allergy is so severe, that the smell of meat from a barbecue or restaurant can send her body into shock.

“The most difficult part is not being able to go out with my family. They all went out to dinner last night and I stayed home,” she explained.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the number of people developing the syndrome is increasing every year. Tick season starts in April and ends in August.

The CDC recommends avoiding grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, treating clothing or gear with Permethrin, and using EPA registered insect repellants.