Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a serious tick-borne illness and one more reason to protect yourself from ticks. The illness is not normally found in New England, but isolated cases have been reported in Rhode Island.
The most commonly fatal tick-borne illness, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. In the United States, Rocky Mountain spotted fever has been found in almost every state, but most frequently in the southeast and south central areas. The states with the highest incidences of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are North Carolina and Oklahoma. Combined, they account for 35% of the total number of cases reported. The American dog tick and the Rocky Mountain wood tick are known carriers of the disease.
The American dog tick is primarily found east of the Rocky Mountains and in limited areas on the Pacific Coast. This tick is about 1/8 inch long and is dark brown with an irregular pattern of white markings behind the head. It likes to feed on large animals, including domestic dogs. The American dog tick is often the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in humans. To see an image of the American dog tick, visit the the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Rocky Mountain wood tick is often found in the Rocky Mountain states and in southwestern Canada. It resembles the American dog tick, but is larger in size. This tick feeds on large animals and is usually found in wooded or tall grass areas. For a picture, please visit the the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is difficult to diagnose, especially in its early onset. Symptoms can be very generalized. Typically, symptoms appear five to ten days following a tick bite. Signs of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include:
The most common antibiotic used to treat Rocky Mountain spotted fever is tetracycline. This "broad-spectrum" antibiotic is also used to treat bacterial infections such as erlichiosis, typhus fever and other tick-related diseases.
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For more information on Rocky Mountain spotted fever visit the the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.