Tick Season 2019 Warning: Mother shares advices after 7-year-old girl get rare tick paralysis from camping trip


A mother from Colorado has shared a warning on Facebook after her daughter suffered a rare form of tick paralysis following an overnight camping trip.

Heidi Ganahl’s daughter Jenna camped overnight near Bailey, Colorado. When she returned, Heidi found a few ticks in her daughter’s hair.

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A lone star tick. Picture via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL), with identification number #4407, Public Domain/Wikipedia

It’s taken me a week to write this as it was so scary but I want to tell my friends with little ones in their lives to be on alert,” she wrote in a Facebook post on Facebook.

Jenna, our lil [sic] 7-year-old, came home from her first overnight camp with a couple of ticks on her head hidden in her hair. I took them off, called the doctor and kept an eye on the bite wounds.

Jenna began to feel ill, but doctors didn’t believe the tick bites were a big deal. She started to feel worse, and 10 days after returning from her camping trip, her lower leg and foot went into paralysis.

Her foot and shin went to ‘sleep’,” Ganahl wrote. “[I] had a bad feeling, called the Dr and they said to bring her in.

She took her to the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Anschutz. The doctors investigated and determined she had tick paralysis, an infectious disease caused by a neurotoxin produced in the salivary glands of ticks.

If the tick remains attached for long enough, or a part of the tick is left behind when removing it, the toxin can be transferred to the host. 

It was only caught because of the great docs (most CU School of Medicine) that recognized the similarities to two other cases in recent weeks there (it’s extremely rare so it was very abnormal to see 3 cases in 3 weeks),” Ganahl said.

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Some symptoms of tick bite. Pictures via CDC

It turned out some of the tick had been left in Jenna’s scalp, which the doctors removed. After removing a tick, paralysis usually subsides within 24 hours.

It was a terrifying 12 hours as we waited to see if they were able to remove the tiny bit of tick left in her producing the toxin,” Ganahl wrote. “The only fix is to get it out or things get very bad.

If a tick is undetected or misdiagnosed, “tick paralysis can lead to respiratory failure or even death with a reported mortality rate of 10-12%,” according to a 2017 study of tick paralysis in BC, Canada.

Fortunately, Jenna is now OK. Ganahl ended the post with advice for parents during the summer season, when kids are more likely to play outdoors. 

I learned more about ticks than I ever wanted to know – the wet weather makes for a bad tick season, check your little ones often, if you find one remove them with tweezers and scrub the wound to clean it out thoroughly with soap and water to make sure you get it all, then watch for symptoms for 14 days. Take it seriously this year.

2019 tick forecast

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2019 tick forecast map for the USA. Map by pest.org

Ticks can be nuisances (no one wants to have to tweezer a tick off their skin, or their child’s skin, or a pet’s), and due to the diseases they carry, then can be real threats to human health. What’s worse is that while there is a primary time of year when ticks are most active — late spring, summer, and early fall — ticks are reproducing, finding hosts, and acting like pests in general all throughout the year. As “tick expert” Dr. Thomas Mather says, “Tick season is pretty much every season.

Still, climatic conditions can make some years worse for ticks than others. Ticks thrive in humidity, so a wet year can boost populations and increase the number of places they can live in. And warm winters and lingering summer heat add weeks of activity for the animals that ticks use as hosts, making them more likely to spread into the areas where humans live.

For 2019, forecasters predict that the warm-weather months in the US will be a bad time for anyone who wants to avoid ticks, with tick populations likely to be larger than usual, and weather conditions likely to put ticks in range of people for much longer than average. And while some regions, most notably the Southeast, may not see more tick activity than usual, most states will experience the warmer, wetter conditions that drive tick populations — and the prospect of tick borne diseases — skyward.

You always need to take ticks’ bites seriously…Especially this catastrophic year 2019!

[Facebook, CBSLocal, Pest, CDC, IFLS]

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