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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

“Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever” is a zoonotic disease which means that it is a disease of animals that can be transmitted to humans. It is a lethal bacterial infection caused by Rickettsia rickettsii and transmitted to humans by tick bites. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever does not spread directly from person to person. Majority of cases develop mild illness but a small number of cases especially, older adults may develop fatal illnesses and require rapid and prompt treatment.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Incidence, age and sex

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a seasonal disease and occurs majorly from April through September and as the name goes, it is more prevalent in the Rocky Mountain areas. All ages and both sexes are equally susceptible.

Signs and symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Diagnosis

Initial signs and symptoms are non-specific and include high fever, headache, photophobia, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite and fatigue. Later on, the some patients may develop characteristic red-coloured spotted rash on wrists and ankles (appears on third to fifth day of infection), widespread aches and pain, diarrhoea, restlessness and delirium. The classic triad of the illness is fever, rash and history of tick bite.

Laboratory investigations reveal thrombocytopenia (low platelets), hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and elevated liver enzymes.

Causes and prevention of Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is most often caused by tick bite. Ticks get attached to the skin and feed on blood. They are mostly found in the hair, around ankles and in the genital region. After embedding in the skin, it forms a small, hard and itchy lump.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever can also spread by contact of bacteria with broken skin such as cut or scrape on exposed body parts.

The only way to prevent Rocky Mountain spotted fever is by reducing exposure to ticks by avoiding woody and grassy jungles or gardens, regular use of repellents like DEET or permethrin, wearing light coloured clothes, taking a bath soon after coming back from outdoors and by removing ticks from the body, if present.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Complications

Rocky Mountain spotted fever if treated early has very few complications but delay in treatment can cause failure of vital organs like heart, lung and kidney. Other complications include brain damage, bleeding problem and gangrene (tissue death due to loss of blood supply). Gangrene may in turn result in amputation of the fingers, the toes, the arms or the legs.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever: Treatment

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is treated by carefully removing the tick from the skin and taking concurrent antibiotic treatment. Doxycycline is the drug of choice and it is continued for another three days after fever subsides. Chloramphenicol is the alternative drug for treatment. Complete recovery is seen in most individuals.