Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a severe disease. It is potentially fatal. The disease is spread by ticks. It was first recognized in the Rocky Mountain states. RMSF is now found in practically all states in the US.
RMSF is caused by the bacterium
. It is carried by the American dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick. When an infected tick bites a human, the disease is passed through the skin into the bloodstream.
The bacteria multiply inside cells of the inner lining of small arteries. This causes inflammation. The inflammation is known as vasculitis.
Factors that increase your chance of RMSF include:
Age: children and young adults
Exposure to tick-infested areas
Contact with pets that roam in tick-infested areas
Being outdoors often during the months of April to September
Residence in or visits to states where RMSF occurs most commonly; these include, but are not limited, to:
North and South Carolina
The first symptom of RMSF is a sudden high fever. It often occurs within 1-14 days after a tick bite. Other symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. RMSF can be difficult to diagnose. It can resemble other diseases. Three indicators that your doctor will look for are:
Rash (may not be present early)
History of a tick bite (sometimes you may not have noticed)
Blood tests may be done to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment is often started based on a best guess basis. Sometimes doctors forget to think of RMSF when adults or children have only high fever.
Especially if you have been outdoors around ticks, ask your doctor:
“Could I (or my child) have Rocky Mountain spotted fever?"
That simple question may save a life.
RMSF is treated with antibiotics. It is important to start this
early. The most commonly used antibiotics are:
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a