Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is an illness caused by infection with the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii often carried as parasites by a variety of ticks. The bacteria pass to humans through the bite of a tick. Following an incubation period of 5-10 days, an infected person may suffer fever, nausea, muscle pain, and headache that eventually lead to the more diagnostic symptoms: continued fever and rash. Most people that are infected must be hospitalized. The disease may be confirmed through lab testing for decreased blood platelets, low blood sodium, and elevated liver enzymes; but a doctor will usually begin tetracycline treatments if the patient presents with the initial symptoms and is known to have been bitten by a tick.
RMSF and other tick-borne illnesses are preventable. Spray your clothing with DEET before working outdoors where ticks are likely to be. When you are in the field, where light colored clothes so that ticks are move visible and can be easily removed before attaching. Tuck your pants legs into your socks and do a thorough check for ticks when you return from the field. Carefully check children (especially their hair) and pets to exclude ticks before entering your home if they have been in an environment where ticks are present. It may take more than 24 hours for an attached tick to transmit RMSF causing bacteria to a human host, so promptly remove ticks when found
The name of the disease is misleading. Though the first cases of the disease were documented in the “Rocky Mountain” region where the Rocky Mountain wood tick is found. However, most cases today are originating in the southeast and mid-Atlantic states where the American dog tick is a common vector for the disease.