Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is cause by a bacterium called R. rickettsii. The pathogen is transmitted through the bite of a tick and is more commonly found in south-eastern United States, parts of Mexico, Central and South America, and even in some parts of Canada. While the illness can be fatal, it is curable and responds well to antibiotic treatment when detected early.
Signs and Symptoms of RMSF
The first signs of the infection occur a few days after being bitten by a tick and include severe headaches and fever. The rash may appear a few days later and could look either like blotchy red spots or smaller red dots and is not itchy.
The rash first appears on the ankles and wrists and progresses to the rest of the body from there. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, chills, muscle ache and even neurological disorders in later stages.
RMSF can be difficult to detect because of the delay in the onset of some of the latter symptoms. In some cases, there is no occurrence of the rash. It is advisable to get medical help as soon as the headaches and fever develop if there was a possibility of a tick bite.
When not treated immediately, RMSF can cause damage to the smaller blood vessels, inflammation in the heart, lungs, and brain, and kidney failure, eventually resulting in death. On the other hand, if diagnosed and treated with a course of antibiotics, the disease can be cured completely.
When living in an area that is prone to tick infestations or spending a lot of time around animals, especially dogs, one should always be on the lookout for RMFS symptoms. Tick bites can often go unnoticed until they cause more serious diseases. Visit a doctor immediately if any of the symptoms are observed.
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and may order a blood test to confirm the presence of the bacteria. If there is a strong suspicion of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, then your doctor might start a course of antibiotics without waiting for the blood test results as that may cause unnecessary delays.
High fever and vomiting could cause severe dehydration in some patients and this needs to be treated by administering isotonic fluids and monitoring the patient.
The old saying “prevention is better than a cure” has never been more true than in the case of RMSF. Taking a few simple precautions can go a long way in preventing tick bites and consequently an infection:
• Where protective clothes like long pants, long sleeved shirts, socks and boots when moving around in wooded areas
• Check yourself for ticks when returning home
• If a tick is found on the body, remove it carefully with tweezers and clean any bites with rubbing alcohol
• Do not try to kill a tick by crushing it, but instead immerse in a small amount of alcohol
A little bit of caution and care can go a long way in preventing a potentially fatal disease.
Contact Our Office
To learn more about RMSF and the steps you can take to prevent it from affecting your life, contact our office. As an experienced dermatologist, Dr. Howard Horlick will do everything within his power to provide you with the relief you need.