CHARLOTTE, NC - A video circulating online is enough to make any parent’s blood run cold.
A family in Oregon was filming as their daughter’s legs became suddenly paralyzed.
They rushed her to the hospital and discovered the cause was a tiny tick, the American Dog Tick, which also happens to be widespread in the piedmont area. It had latched on to the back of the little girl’s head, her parents never knew it was there.
“Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston all those areas will see it a lot,” said Dr. Jason Doukas, with the Veterinary Medical Center of Fort Mill, South Carolina. “It’s very common in our area.”
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“After five or seven days or so of being attached then you'll see some and coordination wobbliness which can eventually lead to full paralysis,” he explained.
He says tick paralysis is most common in children but is still pretty rare.
But the ticks themselves are not.
“They'll bite humans all the time,” he said. “Anytime you're in the long grass or going for a walk with your kids just take a look at their ankles, the back of their head, anywhere that’s hard to see.”
The Oregon family’s video now has more than six million views on Facebook. The parents hope it will warn others, they say they’re thankful they went to the hospital before it was too late.
“If it moves to your diaphragm muscle that's actually going to prevent you from breathing,” Dr. Doukas said.
Even if a tick is carrying a paralyzing neurotoxin, if you remove it right away, it likely won’t affect you.
So keeping a close eye on your skin is your best defense.
“They’re most active starting in April kind of going towards mid-August or so. So unfortunately, we are right in that hotbed right now,” Dr. Doukas explained. “It's also when everyone wants to be outside so we just need to be a little more vigilant.”
Experts say insect repellent with DEET will help keep ticks away. They also suggest keeping the grass around your home trimmed and warn against playing or venturing in wooded areas.
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