Rocky Mountain spotted fever is an insect borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. This particular bacterium has been commonly found within two different ticks in the United States: the dog tick in the Eastern region and the rocky mountain wood tick in the Western region, which have been typically known to be most abundant in the spring and early summer periods. This fever presents a clinical picture of high fever with severe body rashes on various parts of the body. Prompt treatment is mandatory to avoid serious damage to vital organs such as kidneys and heart.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Symptoms
The progression of Rocky Mountain spotted fever varies greatly due to different stages of its symptomatic presentation. Patients who are treated early may recover quickly on medication while those who experience a more severe course require prolonged hospitalization or intensive care. Hence, checking out its stages is important in evaluating the virulence and the prognosis of this disease.
1. Initial Stage
Most people would show clear symptoms within the first two days of the bite, but for some, it might take as much as a week. The following are the earliest Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms:
- High fever with chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headache
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
After the first 3 days of symptoms, the infected person has chance of a fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit and a severe headache which increases in intensity as time passes by. Muscle ache and nausea accompany the patient soon afterwards.
2. Rashes Stage
The red spots appear in a 5 days after the above Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms become severe. The body will develop light red spots that are non-itchy. The rashes start from wrist and ankles and gradually spread to the palm. They also spread through feet and then cover the torso.
In mild cases, some people never get rashes or spots which can delay the proper diagnosis and treatment of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. However, the patient can die within 2 weeks after the occurrence of severe symptoms if he receives improper treatment or no treatment at all.
3. The Final Stage
After the rash stage, Rocky Mountain spotted fever gradually starts to retard the neurological system and eventually causes deafness, cranial neuropathies, spasticity, paralysis and photophobia. It is all about how prescribed medicines such as antibiotics and analgesics work to accelerate the process of recovery. If the treatment succeeds, the patient can recover within a week.
Risk Factors of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
This disease is caused by the bite a tick which transfers a bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. This insect sticks to the skin and feeds on the blood of humans anywhere from 6 to 10 hours. These insects are mainly active during warm weathers when people like to spend their days outside. Rocky Mountain spotted fever never spreads from person to person. It only transfers through a tick bite.
The main factors that affect the relapse of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include your living standards and locality. This disease often has a seasonal outbreak, such as during spring and summer.In addition, the time you spend outdoors, especially in grassy areas, can increase your chances of catching this disease. If you have a pet dog at home, you need to be aware of its hygiene in order to have a tick-free indoor environment.
Treatments for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
There is no proper vaccine for curing Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but there are a few medicinal treatments that provide symptomatic relief.
This fever is treated with one of the antibiotics, called the tetracycline drugs. Tetracycline should not be prescribed to pregnant women as this drug can cause fetal abnormalities. For such cases, chloramphenicol is a great alternative. With these drugs, Rocky Mountain spotted fever symptoms will be relieved and most people are cured within 5 to 7 days.
Patient needs to be hospitalized if there is severe lung damage, significant bleeding or severe brain damage. In cases of breathing failure, ventilation may be necessary. Patients with kidney failure may require dialysis. Those with severe bleeding may need blood transfusions.
If you are experiencing early symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it is best to contact the healthcare provider immediately. The illness is most vulnerable at its initial stages. The sooner it is treated, the less damage it will cause to your body. Follow your doctor's advice, take your medicines strictly and have follow ups to evaluate your recovery.
Prevention of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
As the infection is usually at its peak during the spring and early summer season, measures are acquired for the prevention during these times. The following are key preventive measures to stay tick-free and reduce your chances of catching Rocky Mountain spotted fever:
Wear full sleeves and long pants to cover your skin in the best way possible, especially when going outdoors. Prefer wearing light-colored clothes because it helps identify a tick easily.
2. Insect Repellent
Use products with DEET that wards off ticks a lot better. Apply insect repellent when travelling outside (or even indoors during heavy tick outbreak seasons).
3. Pet Care
If you keep a pet at home, be sure to keep it clean and tick-free at all times. Check their fur closely or give them a bath after walking them outdoors.
4. Check Yourself
After you return from outdoors, especially from a grassy and tick-infested area, check your clothes and skin for ticks every time. If found, remove it with tweezers and apply antiseptic on that area. After doing this, wash your hands immediately.