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Tick Bite Infection: Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

By HERWriter
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When we think of tick bites, Rocky Mountain spotted fever isn’t the first infection that comes to mind though it can cause a potentially serious or fatal illness. Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is caused from the bite of a tick that has been infected with the bacteria called Rickettsia rickettsii. The ticks are most active during April to September and despite the name, the illness can occur all over the U.S.

The most common states that RMSF occurs in are Oklahoma and North Carolina with South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia being the next group of high incidence states. (2)

Signs and symptoms:

A person infected with the R. rickettsii will typically develop symptoms within a week of being bitten by the infected tick. People usually go to their doctor with complaints of multiple symptoms such as headache, fever, rash and muscle pain. Nausea and vomiting may also be present and 25 percent of people develop symptoms of lethargy or confusion. RMSF can be difficult to diagnose so it is important to relay any possible exposure to ticks from outside activities. Not everyone will notice if they have a tick bite or develop the rash.

Approximately 85-90 percent of patients will develop a spotted rash often after the other symptoms of headache, fever and GI complaints have appeared. The rash usually first appears around the wrists and ankles and 43 percent of people will later develop it on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet. The rash starts out splotchy with small macules that spread to becoming spotted and itchy. (2)

Diagnosis of RMSF is made by symptoms, history of a tick bite and lab tests that confirm low platelet counts, low sodium levels and elevated liver enzymes. According to Illinois Dept of health, “Overall mortality hovers between 3 percent and 5 percent but ranges from 13 percent to 25 percent in untreated individuals.” (4) The death rate is highest in those who delayed seeking medical attention until the second week of their illness. RMSF is not an illness to ignore.

How it is treated:

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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