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Officials warn of lone star tick as woman shares story of her aftermath of the bite

By Michele Fiore

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    MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (WDJT) — The nice weather is drawing an unwanted pest outdoors. This year, a word of caution about the lone star tick.

Climate change has allowed the lone star tick to track north. Infectious disease experts have connected it to the heartland virus.

The great outdoors is Kata Young’s happy place.

“Hiking and camping, being outside as much as possible,” said Katherine (Kata) Young who grew up in Wauwatosa.

But first, a little spray because a tick bite years ago has changed her life.

“I continued to have worsening and worsening symptoms and it was really frightening,” said Young.

A lone star tick got her in Nicaragua.

“A white star on its back, a red body and it had bit me on my leg. The site on my leg was infected for about two and a half weeks and I had a strange fever and migraine,” said Young.

The next decade, strange thing happened. An anaphylactic reaction to morphine, then an allergic reaction to cheese and later to short ribs.

“My heart was racing and then I started vomiting and the inflammation and the hives began,” said Young.

Young’s doctors weren’t sure what was going on.

“They took all the tests that they had at the time looking at thyroid and kidney function and everything and it all came back perfectly normal -55 so they treated me as if I had a panic disorder,” said Young.

Then, a chance meeting at a picnic gave Young the answers she had been searching for.

“I heard a voice behind me say oh, do you have Alpha-Gal?”

Alpha Gal Syndrome is just one thing a lone star tick can cause. Heartland virus is another.

“As far as I know the Heartland virus hasn’t been found in Wisconsin, but the tick that carries that virus can be found in Wisconsin. So I think it’s one of those things we’re in surveillance mode trying to see if that disease might spread into Wisconsin,” said UW Health Medical Director of Infection Dr. Dan Shirley.

Dr. Dan Shirley says to protect yourself with long sleeves and pants at dusk and dawn, bug spray that includes deet and do a tick check after being outdoors.

“Every time you see a tick isn’t necessarily a time to panic. I think it’s more about watching for symptoms if you found the tick was attached,” said Shirley.

Kata Young’s condition has worsened over the years. She is allergic to things that don’t necessarily say they have red meat or dairy in them, and that has been tough.

“I found out that the pizza had milk powder in the crust and I went into really severe anaphylaxis,” she said. “Pharmaceuticals might use mammal based biproducts like gelatin or lactose as a filer.

Still, she is not giving up what she loves.

“I continue to live very close to nature. It brings me a lot of peace,” said Young.

If you are heading out to a Milwaukee park like this one soon, be sure to have that big spray, with or without deet. Kata says no deet works just fine too.

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