‘Benign’ Viral Infection Causes Paralysis, Coma
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14 October 2010
By Pratibha Masand
Woman Recovers After Docs Treat Her For Nerve Damage
It began as a relatively benign viral fever, but a week later 36–year–old Lathika Anand was fighting for her life in an intensive care unit at a city hospital. She was paralyzed from the waist down, and suffering from memory loss.
On September 21, Anand, who teaches French in a suburban school, came down with a throat infection. The next day, when she developed a fever, she consulted doctors at a private hospital, who ran a gamut of tests for malaria, dengue, etc. "The blood tests were negative and doctors assured us that she was suffering from nothing more than a regular bout of flu," said Anand’s mother.
A relieved Anand hoped the infection would run its course, but she developed severe pain and cramps in both legs. "Again, doctors found nothing wrong with Lathika. They told us, the symptoms were a result of the fever," said her mother. But the pain did not abate, and she began to find it difficult to pass urine.
"I started losing all sensation below my waist," said Lathika, who has a nineyear–old daughter. That’s when her family rushed her to Jaslok Hospital. "By the time we got Lathika admitted, she was paralyzed from the waist down, and was slipping into a coma. She was suffering from post–viral encephalomyelitis. We immediately started medicating her, and she made a recovery within three days," said Dr Hemant Thacker.
ADEM though rare, can be fatal if not treated in time. "This is the second case we have treated this year," said Dr Thacker. There is no specific reason why a patient develops ADEM. Dr Sangeeta Rawat, head of neurology at KEM Hospital said: "Once the virus starts affecting the myelin, any part of the brain can get affected. It can be detected with the help of an MRI. The nerves cannot send messages to other parts of the body, and this causes paralysis."
According to Dr Nirmal Surya, head of neurology at Saifee Hospital, the weakness starts from the legs. "The nerve cells start getting damaged because of the antibodies produced by the body to fight the virus." Anand was hospitalized for ten days, and her road to recovery included numerous physiotherapy sessions. "I am happy and relived to be home with my daughter," she said.