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Tick bite caused Oklahoma woman to develop allergy to meat

Posted at 9:16 AM, May 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-03 13:54:17-04

TULSA, Okla. — An Oklahoma woman has faced terrifying health scares over the last year from a tick bite. 

Nancy Phelps' tongue and face have swollen up many times. She has also spent countless hours in the hospital because she could not breathe. 

She learned it is all because she was bit by a Lonestar Tick while she was playing with her grandkids in her yard in the spring of 2017.

"They fall off trees," Phelps said. "They're out in the grass." 

She started seeing symptoms lke rashes and having stomach problems early on. Phelps thought it was random.

Then in the fall, she started going into anaphylactic shock, meaning she could not breathe because of an allergic reaction. 

"Within about a week time, I was in the emergency room with anaphylaxis eight different times," Phelps said. 

Several doctors later, Phelps learned that tick bite gave her the Alpha Gal Allergy. It causes an allergic reaction to all mammal-based products.

"They could feed on an infected animal, get a parasite that then when they feed on a human that human could be infected," said Luisa Krug, the epidemiology supervisor for the Tulsa County Health Department. 

The CDC said this week that diseases caused by infected ticks, fleas and mosquitoes have tripled in the last 13 years. More than 640,000 cases have been reported. 

When Phelps consumes mammal bi-products or is around them, she has a severe allergic reaction. Her face and tongue start swelling up. 

She said she has to inject herself with an Epi-Pen once every one to two weeks. 

"Anything boxed, in cans, anything you would typically buy off the shelf," Phelps listed what she cannot eat. "Pizza...I didn't realize I liked pizza so much, but those kinds of things are non-existent anymore."

Her allergy is so bad that she even has to worry about cross-contamination. Phelp said she bought all new pots for her home. 

Eating out is nearly impossible now. She has to show restaurants a document she keeps on her phone that lists what she can and cannot consume. 

Phelps can no longer take gel cap pills, because they are made with animal bi-products. 

Make up, toiletries, laundry and dishwashing soaps and certain clothing are also a problem.

Phelps wants others to take note of her story and take serious precautions. 

"It's avoidance and being aware of our surroundings," Phelps said.

The health department suggests wearing long sleeves and pants outside to avoid being bitten by bugs. They also suggest using a bug spray with deet in it.