Preventing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

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(Photo courtesy of the CDC)

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick, and each year, nearly 100 probable cases are identified in Mississippi.

Symptoms include the sudden onset of moderate to high fever lasting up to three weeks, severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, chills and sometimes a rash. When present, the rash begins on the legs or arms, may include the soles of the feet or palms of the hands and may spread rapidly to the trunk or the rest of the body.

(Photo courtesy of the CDC)

If not treated early, the disease can become severe or even fatal.  The Mississippi Department of Health says early treatment with antibiotics lowers the risk of overall mortality to between 3 and 5 percent. Untreated cases have a from 13 percent to 25 percent rate of mortality. Death primarily occurs when the diagnosis is not made until the second week of illness.

What can you do to avoid infection?

  • Check your clothing often for ticks climbing toward open skin. Wear white or light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants so the tiny ticks are easier to see. Tuck long pants into your socks and boots. Wear a head covering or hat for added protection.
  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET (30 percent or less) to exposed skin (except the face). Repellents containing permethrin can be applied to outer clothing while in locations where ticks may be common. Follow label directions; do not misuse or overuse repellents. Always supervise children in the use of repellents.
  • Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
  • Check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks. Most ticks are slow to attach, and rarely transmit disease until they have been attached for several hours.
  • If you let your pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Ticks can enter the home on pets and fall off in search of a host.
  • Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut to keep the area unattractive to ticks.

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