Local man recovers after a life-threatening disease from a tick bite

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:31 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - There’s a life-threatening disease you can get from a tick bite, and it’s probably not the one you have in mind.

It’s called alpha-gal, and you get it from the lone star tick, the most common tick in Georgia and South Carolina.

When one bit a Grovetown man, he didn’t think anything of it until months later. Donald Toulson woke up in the middle of the night having a severe allergic reaction.

When it happened again a few days later, he says he was lucky to put two and two together.

“I kind of just remembered reading an article. I don’t know, a year maybe before a couple of months, about a tick by perhaps causing a meat allergy,” he said.

That’s what he had. Alpha-gal makes you dangerously allergic to red meat and other mammals like pork.

He’s paying it forward. Without that news story, he might not have figured it out so quickly.

We also sit down with his doctor, who sees multiple patients with this a week, and not all of them take it seriously.

Dr. Donnie Dunagan, allergy specialist said: “One, in particular, who was a big hunter. I remember the very first time I saw him, he goes, ‘there ain’t nobody gonna tell me I’m not going to eat red meat.’ He proceeded to continue to eat red meat until he ended up in the intensive care unit on a ventilator because of respiratory failure. After that, I think it scared him enough that it changed his mind.”

This is a life-threatening allergy, but the good news, if you stay away from meat, it can go away.

Toulson is proof of that. Don’t miss this story on Thursday on News 12 at 6 o’clock. It really could save someone’s life.

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