New tick in town

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Time is ticking as the Lone Star Tick spreads across Connecticut. In June, a resident of South Norwalk, Connecticut noticed a deer’s strange behavior, which led to an investigation into the new ticks. Officers from Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) arrived at the site where the deer had already died as a result of a tick infestation, where ticks covered the deer’s body. State Entomologist and tick researcher Dr. Kirby Stafford found that Lone Star Ticks were the culprit.

The Lone Star Tick is on Manresa Island in Norwalk, CT. Jackie Shannon ’18

According to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) and DEEP’s September 20 press release, the Lone Star Tick is now on Manresa Island in South Norwalk, Connecticut. This is the first known reproducing population of this tick, scientifically known as the Amblyomma americanum
Lone Star Ticks occupy wooded areas near animal resting locations, according to tickencounter.org. The tick is located in eastern, southeastern, and south-central states, including Maine, Texas, and Oklahoma, and most recently, Connecticut. There has been an increase in Lone Star Ticks in America over the past 20 to 30 years, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  
Male Lone Star Ticks have white streaks around the edge of their bodies, whereas the females have a brown body with a single white dot on their back. The name “Lone Star Tick” derives from the single spot on the female’s back.  
Unlike the majority of ticks, the Lone Star Tick does not cause Lyme disease. The victim of a Lone Star tick bite will occasionally develop a rash, similar to the rash that develops in the early stages of Lyme disease. However, according to CDC, studies have shown that Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that carries Lyme disease, does not cause the rash.  
Instead, Lone Star Ticks cause Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI). In addition to a rash, STARI victims may also experience fatigue, fever, and muscle pain. An oral antibiotic, called doxycycline, can help in the treatment process, but not shorten recovery time, according to CDC.
While those bitten by the tick will not contract Lyme disease, they may become allergic to meat. Galactose-alpha-1 and 3-galactose, also known as alpha-gal, is a common sugar molecule found in mammals. If a tick bites a mammal such as a cow, then that cow will carry the alpha-gal. If the tick then bites a human, the alpha-gal will be transmitted to the human and his or her body will produce alpha-gal antibodies which fight alpha-gal sugar molecules, according to news.nationalgeographic.org.
As a result, a human who has the tick bite will have an allergic reaction to red meat. Additionally, the alpha-gal travels through the gastrointestinal tract, which causes victims to have hives, shortness of breath, or vomiting. Patients may also suffer from low blood pressure. Currently, there is no cure or vaccine to fight the alpha-gal.  
How the Lone Star Tick travels to make humans allergic to red meat. Jackie Shannon ’18

In an interview conducted by the New York Daily News, asthma, allergy, and immunology researcher Mr. Jeff Wilson said, “There’s something really special about this tick. Just a few bites and you can render anyone really, really allergic.”
Residents who live in the South Norwalk area should take the same safety precautions as they would with other types of ticks. This includes applying bug repellent and dressing in light clothing before going outside. After being outside, these residents should inspect clothing and pets, conduct a full-body tick check, and shower to ensure they are tick-free.
“It is worrisome that such a tick now inhabits an area so close to where I live,” Darien, Connecticut resident and Sacred Heart senior Charlotte Sheehan said. “I often visit the beaches in Norwalk and surrounding areas. I hope that the tick does not spread across Fairfield County.”
-Jackie Shannon, Social Media Editor, and Co-Video Editor