N.Y. doctor detects rare tick, saves child

May 19, 2012 at 12:32 AM
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ALBANY, N.Y., May 19 (UPI) -- A quick-thinking physician in Albany, N.Y., detected a tick that caused a 2-year-old girl to become partially paralyzed, hospital officials said.

The mother of Jenna Tomlins said her daughter had become weak, lethargic, unable to walk and unable to keep her eyes open, and doctors in Poughkeepsie sent them to the Albany Medical Center because they didn't know what was wrong with the toddler, the Albany Times Union reported.

Hospital officials said the girl had already had a CT scan, spinal tap and blood work and the tests all were normal.

However, Dr. Karen Powers, a pediatric neurologist at Albany Med, examined the girl and said she had seen a similar case when she was training to be a physician in Virginia.

She combed through the little girl's hair and found an engorged American dog tick. The tick was removed and the girl recovered within hours and needed no further treatment, Powers said.

Hospital officials said a study published in the American Journal of Medical Toxicology showed partial paralysis from the tick is well-documented in dogs, but only 50 cases of human tick paralysis were reported in the United States from 1946 to 2006.

American dog ticks attach to dogs and small mammals, and the female tick is believed to inject a poisonous neurotoxin into the host that can cause paralysis.

"Cases can be fatal if the tick is not discovered," Powers said at a news conference attended by Tomlins and her mother.

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