Ascending Paralysis Cases in Colorado Due to Ticks

Greater awareness needed among health care providers in tick-infested areas

THURSDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- A cluster of four patients with tick paralysis occurred in April and May this year in the mountains of north central Colorado, with symptoms including lower-limb paralysis, slurred speech and absent or impaired reflexes, according to a report in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Sept. 1 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported the four cases, including a 6-year-old girl with paralysis who was hospitalized, intubated and initially misdiagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. A nurse found a tick along the girl's hairline and once the tick was removed the girl's condition rapidly improved. The girl had played in a tick-infested area seven days before onset of symptoms.

In another case, an 86-year-old man with chronic neuropathy was diagnosed with progressive worsening of his symptoms, but once a tick, detected on his back, was removed, his condition improved, while the other two cases involved a 58-year-old man and a 78-year-old woman.

The cases highlight the importance of considering tick paralysis in patients with ascending paralysis, according to an accompanying editorial. "Although rare, cases of tick paralysis have been identified worldwide; most cases in North America occur in the western regions of Canada and the United States," the researchers write.

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