Transmitted to humans by a tick bite, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a potentially serious bacterial infection. Although named after the area where the disease was first identified, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can occur anywhere that has a family of ticks known as Ixodid (hard) ticks. They live in wooded areas and are more prevalent in late spring and early summer. An estimated 250 to 2,000 cases per year occur in the United States.
When an infected tick attaches to your skin, Rocky Mountain spotted fever enters your bloodstream and can travel to other parts of the body. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii bacteria. You can develop Rocky Mountain spotted fever from either a tick bite or contact with the bacteria through the fluid of an infected tick. Person to person contact will not spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
In most cases, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a mild illness, as long as you receive treatment right away. Typically, symptoms appear within a week of a tick bite, but they can take up to two weeks to develop. The disease can lead to complications or even death, especially in older adults, so seek treatment immediately.
The best way to prevent Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is to avoid tick-infested areas. If you spend any time in areas with woods, tall grasses or shrubs, wear long sleeves and pants. Tuck pants legs into socks. Wear closed shoes, not sandals. Do a visual check of each member of your family upon returning home. And don’t forget to check your dog for ticks (if applicable).