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Metro woman allergic to meat after nearly dying from tick bite

OKLAHOMA CITY - A metro woman is allergic to meat after she was bitten by a tick and nearly died.

"I remember pulling a tick off of me," said Theresa Epperly.

Her life, now changed, forever.

"These are my EpiPens. I carry these everywhere. I actually have two sets of them, one in my car and one in my purse," Epperly said. "And then, I actually have to carry liquid Benadryl."

She says a tick bit her near her home five years ago.

"I had these blotches all over my body. I looked at my ears and they were swollen up huge. My lips were swollen," she told News 4.

She says doctors couldn't figure it out and she made several trips to the emergency room. Finally, several years later, she got answers.

"They called me on the phone and they're like, 'Oh, by the way, you have Alpha-gal syndrome,'" she said.

The condition can develop after someone is infected by a tick. The result - allergic reactions to meat, even fabrics.

"You cannot eat any more meat. And, you cannot eat any deer, you cannot eat elk, you cannot eat ham," Epperly said.

The condition is fairly new at making headlines and the Oklahoma State Health Department says it's rare and they don't actively track it, instead, they say they focus on a more common threat - Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

"It can be fatal. It`s very treatable, but it can be fatal and that is one that is very common across the entire state," said Rachel Clinton with the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Health officials say it's a growing problem.

"Each year, as we have more mild winters, we do see an increase in the number of cases," Clinton said.

Meanwhile, Epperly hopes to raise awareness about her condition.

"I pretty much would have died," she said.

Her doctors hope, over time, her condition will improve and hope she will be able to eat meat again.

The health department says if you've been bitten by a tick, document the date and track your symptoms for the next few weeks.