WHAT IS IT?
Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial disease transmitted to people by ticks. The bacterium species is Rickettsia rickettsii. The American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) is a vector for RMSF and is the second most common tick in Georgia. A tick bite is usually painless and about half of the people who develop RMSF do not remember being bitten.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
70 to 80% of people will not have symptoms. Less than 1% will develop a neurologic disease such as
- Abdominal/Muscle Pain
- Lack of appetite
The first symptoms of RMSF begin 2 to 14 days after being bit by an infected tick. RMSF can be fatal if not treated in the first eight days of symptoms. Ill people treated early can recover on outpatient medication; those treated late may require intravenous antibiotics and prolonged hospitalization.
HOW CAN I PREVENT CONTRACTING THIS DISEASE?
Doxycycline is the treatment for adults and children of all ages. It is best started before the fifth day of symptoms. The longer a tick is attached to the human host, the more likely it is to transmit a pathogen. The tick needs to be attached for at least 4 hours to cause RSMF. Removing a tick improperly can also play an important role in contracting a tick-borne illness. To remove a tick:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
- Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
- Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet. Never crush a tick with your fingers.
Not all ticks carry diseases, but see your doctor if you develop any symptoms within 30 days of a tick bite.
The best way to prevent disease is to prevent tick bites.
- Avoid dense woods and brushy areas.
- Use insect repellents that contain 20 to 30% N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET).
- Use permethrin on clothing.
- Wear long pants and socks.
- Check physically for ticks after outdoor activity.
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