Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a rare bacterial infection transmitted by three types of ticks. The bacteria, Rickettsia rickettsii, can cause serious damage to the brain, heart, and lungs. It's difficult to diagnose as many people are unaware that they've received a tick bite. But, less than one percent of tick bites transmit Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria. The types of ticks that spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are:
- Dog ticks: Found in the Eastern part of the United States;
- Wood ticks: Found in the Rocky Mountain states; and
- Lone star ticks: Found along the West Coast.
Symptoms usually include a rash that begins as small red spots or blotches on the wrists, ankles, palms or soles of the feet. The rash eventually spreads upward on the arms and legs to the trunk of the body. These symptoms take between one week and two weeks to appear following a tick bite. Accompanying symptoms also include:Fever and chills;
- Fever and chills;
- Muscle aches;
- Red eyes and light sensitivity;
- Excessive thirst and loss of appetite; and
- Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and/or fatigue.
Your doctor may use lab tests to diagnose Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and prescribe antibiotic treatment.
The best prevention for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is avoiding tick-infested areas. Wear long sleeve shirts and pants if near areas with shrubs, tall grasses and/or woods. Protect the legs by tucking pant legs into socks and wearing closed shoes. Do a visual check of each family member upon returning home. If applicable, check your dog or other pets for ticks.
If you do find a tick, use tweezers to detach it from the skin. Grab the tick by the head or mouthparts as close as possible to where the bite has entered the skin. Pull firmly and steadily away from the skin until the tick disengages. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant and watch for other symptoms. Place the tick in a jar or plastic bag and take it to your dermatologist for examination. Antibiotics aren't generally prescribed unless other symptoms are present.