Neurotoxin-induced paralysis: a case of tick paralysis in a 2-year-old child

Olga D Taraschenko, Karen M Powers
Pediatric Neurology 2014, 50 (6): 605-7

BACKGROUND: Tick paralysis is an arthropod-transmitted disease causing potentially lethal progressive ascending weakness. The presenting symptoms of tick paralysis overlap those of acute inflammatory diseases of the peripheral nervous system and spinal cord; thus, the condition is often misdiagnosed, leading to unnecessary treatments and prolonged hospitalization.

PATIENT: A 2-year-old girl residing in northern New York and having no history of travel to areas endemic to ticks presented with rapidly progressing ascending paralysis, hyporeflexia, and intact sensory examination. Investigation included blood and serum toxicology screens, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, and brain imaging. With all tests negative, the child's condition was initially mistaken for botulism; however, an engorged tick was later found attached to the head skin. Following tick removal, the patient's weakness promptly improved with no additional interventions.

CONCLUSION: Our patient illustrates the importance of thorough skin examination in all cases of acute progressive weakness and the necessity to include tick paralysis in the differential diagnosis of paralysis, even in nonendemic areas.

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