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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Facts

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever is an illness caused by bacteria that are transmitted by tick bites to humans (a tick-borne illness).
  • The disease is not contagious from person to person.
  • The disease is caused by bacteria termed Rickettsia rickettsii.
  • Three major signs and symptoms are tick bite, fever, and rash; other symptoms may also develop.
  • Medical care should be sought if Rocky Mountain spotted fever disease is suspected.
  • Diagnosis is usually made based upon the patient's history and symptoms, but specific tests are available.
  • Although primary-care physicians can treat the disease, other specialists may be consulted.
  • Treatment is done with antibiotics, usually doxycycline and occasionally, chloramphenicol; note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States now recommends doxycycline for RMSF infections in children.
  • Prevention of the disease involves avoiding the risk factor of tick bites.
  • The prognosis of the disease is good if treated early.
  • Published procedures indicate how to safely remove a tick attached to the skin.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever is found in many areas; the disease is not limited to the Rocky Mountain area of the U.S.
Picture of female and male wood ticks
Picture of female and male wood ticks; Source: CDC
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/21/2017

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Tick Bite Prevention

  • Avoid grassy areas and shrubs where ticks may be lying in wait to tag a ride on a potential "meal."
  • Avoid tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September in the U.S.
  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off.
  • Tuck pants into boots or socks.
  • Apply insect repellant, specifically the brands designed to repel ticks. Follow label instructions. Avoid use of DEET-containing repellents on children. Carefully follow instructions and apply some repellents directly to skin and others to clothing.


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