July 4, 2008

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Has Potential to Kill

By Jeremy Higgins, McAlester News-Capital, Okla.

Jul. 4--Summertime means no school and lots of time for fun in the sun for most people.

The summer months also bring out insects and other pests that could be hazardous to your health.

One potentially deadly health concern during this time of year is Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most severe and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. It also occurs in Mexico and in Central and South America. The disease is caused by rickettsia rickettsii, a species of bacteria that is spread to humans by ixodid (hard) ticks.

"Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headache, and muscle pain, followed by development of rash.

The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal."

There have already been a handful of reported cases of the illness in Pittsburg County according to officials at the Pittsburg County Health Department.

"There have been four confirmed cases in the county," Keith Reid, district nursing manager at the department said. "Rocky Mountain spotted fever is deadly but there has only been one confirmed death in Oklahoma since 2005. It was in Tulsa County earlier this year."

If you are experiencing the symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Reid says the best thing to do is consult your primary care physician and have the situation evaluated.

"Symptoms can be common to other illnesses," he said. "But generally headaches, a fever greater than 100.5 and sometimes a fine bumpy red rash starting with the extremities is how you can tell you may have been infected.

"Only 1-3 percent of the tick population is infected and capable of transmitting the disease. Symptoms generally appear within 3-14 days of being bitten by an infected tick."

To learn more about Rocky Mountain spotted fever, visit www.cdc.gov.


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