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Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is an infection caused by the bite of an infected tick. It affects over 2,000 people a year in the U.S. and usually occurs from April until September. But, it can occur anytime during the year where the weather is warm. The mid-Atlantic and southeastern states are most affected. The disease is spread to humans through a bite from an infected tick. It is not spread from person to person.
RMSF is caused by a bacterium that is spread to people by the bite of an infected tick. In the U.S., the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick are the ticks that transmit the RMSF bacteria.
People living in or visiting areas where ticks are prevalent, particularly the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states, are at risk for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The following are the most common symptoms of RMSF. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
RMSF is a serious illness that needs treatment as soon as possible. Death has occurred in untreated cases of RMSF.
Symptoms of RMSF may look like other conditions or medical problems. Consult a health care provider for diagnosis.
Diagnosis is based on symptoms and history of a tick bite. How the rash looks is important. Skin samples and lab tests (antibody titer, kidney function tests, platelet count, prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, urinalysis, and red blood cell count) are usually done to rule out other conditions and confirm the diagnosis.
Specific treatment for Rocky Mountain spotted fever will be determined by your health care provider based on the following:
Treatment may include antibiotics (usually doxycycline) until several days after the fever goes away. Efforts to relieve symptom also helps.
RMSF can be cured when treated with antibiotics. However, if untreated, serious complications can occur including:
Once you’ve had RMSF, you can’t get it again. To help prevent RMSF, follow these guidelines.
Ticks can't bite though clothing, so dress in:
It's important to check often for ticks, especially on these parts of the body:
Be sure to use any insect repellents safely.
The following may also be helpful:
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your health care provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
Bayhealth is Southern Delaware’s healthcare leader with hospitals in Dover and in Milford. Bayhealth provides a wide range of medical services, including cardiovascular, cancer, orthopaedics and rehabilitation, pediatrics, respiratory care, sleep care, surgical weight loss and women’s services.