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

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – Warm weather lures an unwanted pest outside. This year, a word of warning about the lone star tick.

Climate change has allowed the lone star tick to head north. Infectious disease experts have linked it to the heart virus.

The great outdoors are Kata Young’s happy place.

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

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

“I kept getting more and more severe symptoms and it was really scary,” Young said.

A lone star tick caught it in Nicaragua.

“White star on my back, red body and he had bitten my leg. My leg site had been infected for about two and a half weeks and I had a weird fever and migraine,” Young said.

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

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

Young’s doctors didn’t know what was going on.

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

Then, a chance encounter at a picnic gave Young the answers she was looking for.

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

Alpha Gal Syndrome is just one of the things a lone tick can cause. The Heartland virus is another.

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

Dr Dan Shirley says to protect yourself with long sleeves and pants at dusk and dawn, insect repellent containing deet and to check for ticks after being outdoors.

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

Kata Young’s condition has worsened over the years. She’s allergic to things that don’t necessarily say they contain red meat or dairy, and it’s been difficult.

“I found out the pizza had powdered milk in the crust and I had very severe anaphylaxis,” she said. “Pharmaceuticals can use mammalian biproducts like gelatin or lactose as fillers.

Yet she does not give up what she loves.

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

If you’re heading to a Milwaukee park like this anytime soon, make sure you have that big spray, with or without deet. Kata says no deet works very well too.


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