Alpha-Gal From Ticks

A silent epidemic is sweeping Indiana and the nation and only those who have succumbed to the life-altering, life-threatening condition seem to be aware.  The Lone Star tick is responsible for silently and without your knowledge injecting a substance called Alpha-Gal into your system making you deathly allergic to meat and most mammal derived substances like dairy, gelatin and additives like gums and carrageenan found in most packaged food products. 

John Harmon became an overnight-expert.  He is building his dream home deep in the woods of Spencer, Indiana.  He was bit by two different ticks, but he did not know it as the tick first deposits a numbing agent so you do not feel the bite. The first tick gave him Lyme Disease and the second gave him Alpha-Gal.  He found out about it when he ate a patty melt for lunch and had his first anaphylactic episode where his tongue swelled to five times its normal size blocking his ability to breathe.  Most of the reactions come 4-6 hours after ingesting a reactive food.

Taken before his throat closed completely

He was very fortunate to encounter emergency personnel at IU Health – Martinsville Hospital who were knowledgeable about tick bites and knew the tests to run to confirm both Lyme and Alpha-Gal.  Most medical personnel are not familiar with the life-threatening Alpha-Gal Syndrome and as a result, diagnosis may come too late.  Advice for what is safe to eat and what to avoid is simply not widely known. Some allergists even refuse to treat Alpha-Gal.

There is no cure.

Medical Negligence

A week later at 2:30 in the morning, deep in a remote part of Spencer, John had another anaphylactic attack.  He drove himself to the police station while calling 911 to provide ambulance service to IU Health – Bloomington.  Sadly, the EMT argued with John for twenty minutes saying, “no tick caused this.” The delay in getting John to the hospital due to medical ignorance caused him to be intubated because the condition progressed to such near-death conditions.

Medical Negligence. John was intubated due to EMT delaying transport while arguing that "no tick caused this."

What To Eat That Won’t Kill You

John with the help of his friend Melanie Manion, RN started the steep learning curve of what he could safely eat with the Alpha-Gal mammal allergy.  With no help from allergists who just say, “stay away from red meat,” they learned of all the obvious triggers and the ominous hidden triggers.  Every label of every food product must be read.  Things like guar and xanthan gums, carrageenan and gelatin can cause reactions and these additives are surprisingly found in most packaged foods and medications.  The innocuous “natural flavors” can contain triggers which are deadly. Even sugar which is filtered through cattle bone char in processing can cause a reaction.  A chicken sausage can be deadly because the casing used is derived from mammals.  Virtually nothing is safe.  It is impossible to eat in a restaurant due to cross contamination.  A chicken breast prepared on a grill where a hamburger was cooked can cause a life-threatening reaction.  Other reactions include hives, indigestion, drop in blood pressure, cough, shortness of breath, swelling of the lips, throat, tongue and eyelids, dizziness or faintness and severe stomach pain. Some people have fume allergies when smelling meat that is cooking and this can send them to the ER. 

Indiana State Board of Health Does Not Believe It

With something this deadly and life-changing, one would think our Indiana State Health Department and the World Health Organization-WHO would want to be aware of this epidemic.  When Tom Hrisomalos, MD, an infectious disease doctor at IU Health – Bloomington called both agencies to report the nine patients he was currently treating with tick borne illnesses, the response was “no way” basically calling him a liar.  He said we would be seeing this in Indianapolis soon. The Center for Disease Control-CDC does not track Alpha-Gal as an infectious disease.  What else would you call it?

Reported Cases of Alpha-Gal

Hot Spot In Evansville, IN

Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, head of the University of Virginia’s Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, discovered in 2002 the Alpha-Gal sugar is transmitted by ticks which is responsible for creating this delayed food allergy to meat and other mammal products.  He confirms there is an Alpha-Gal hotspot in Evansville, IN.   

Grass Roots Movement – Alpha-Gal Victims Unite

Those infected with Alpha-Gal from a tick bite have formed grass roots Facebook groups to share information as this life-saving information is not available in the medical community or unbelievably, some allergists refuse to treat Alpha-Gal patients.  One in the group wrote, “My doctor said just don’t eat red meat.  However, I react to what seems like almost everything with the slightest mammal in it, byproducts, toiletries, dairy and fumes.” Another lamented the cost saying, “dollars fly out my door going by ambulance to the hospital, more dollars for hospital stays, doctors and medicine that made the condition worse requiring another hospital visit.  I felt like an old dog chasing my tail until I found all of you in this group.” And finally, one member summarized the problem when he wrote “Until the science catches up, the doctors are useless.  They are uneducated and just guessing.” 

Call to Action

This epidemic MUST be exposed.  Awareness needs raised by every means possible.  The medical community must be educated to properly diagnose the condition and provide diet and product information to keep Alpha-Gal infected people from dying from anaphylaxis. Our three letter agencies and certainly our State Board of Health should lead the way and not dismiss this rapidly emerging, life-altering, life-threatening condition transmitted by a tick.

Please go to this link State Legislators Request Form and complete a very simple form that automatically sends a letter to  your State Board of Health requesting they add Alpha-Gal Syndrome to the state’s list of reported infectious diseases.

The CDC calls this a national health crisis with as many as a half-million people affected, but how do we know for sure until the Alpha-Gal condition is a mandatory report?  Make some noise.  Here is the article CDC Report

Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a freelance journalist bringing awareness to Alpha-Gal.  My friend John Harmon almost died from a tick bite.  Alpha-Gal Syndrome AGS has permanently altered and continues to threaten his life.  It is an epidemic in Indiana. 

You can reach Polly at Polly@GPollyJordan.com

I was asked by Melanie Manion, RN to write a one-page summary about Alpha-Gal to be presented to Raphael Sanchez, Investigative Reporter WRTV-ABC Indianapolis in hopes he would lead the way by bringing media awareness to the tick epidemic in Indiana and beyond.

This is our short summary story.  It is a first-hand account of what John and Melanie have personally encountered after John Harmon was bit by the Lone Star tick which gave him Alpha-Gal and bit by a different tick that gave him Lyme Disease.  This took place in Spencer, in southern Indiana, in early June, 2023.  It is by no means a definitive guide for Alpha-Gal.  There are two very comprehensive websites we recommend for more detailed information.  AlphaGalInformation.org and TBCunited.org