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2002 News From Mecklenburg County

July 24, 2002


Charlotte, NC –Four new cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have been reported in Mecklenburg County so far for the month of July, bringing the year-to-date total to seven cases.  Dr. Stephen Keener, medical director for the Mecklenburg County Health Department, emphasized the importance of following simple measures to protect yourself from ticks. 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) is an infection that is transmitted by ticks. The signs and symptoms of RMSF may follow within one to 14 days of a tick bite. But in many cases, someone who develops the infection does not remember being bitten by a tick. 

Initial symptoms may include a high fever—often between 103F to105F, nausea, vomiting, severe headaches, muscle pain and a lack of appetite.  Later symptoms include rash, abdominal pain, joint pain and diarrhea. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever usually causes a moderate to severe illness that can damage the liver, kidneys and lungs. Before antibiotic treatment was available, about 20 to 30 percent of people with the infection would die.      

The rash that makes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever a "spotted" fever may begin anytime between one to 10 days after the fever and headache start, but it most often appears on the third to fifth day. The rash looks like small red spots that begin on the wrists, ankles, palms and soles. It spreads up the arms and legs toward the trunk, but often spares the face. As the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever infection progresses, the original red spots may change in appearance to look more like bruises or bloody patches under the skin. 

Reports of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are highest among males, Caucasians, and children. Two-thirds of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases occur in children under the age of 15, with the peak ages being 5 to 9. Individuals with frequent exposure to dogs and those who reside near wooded areas or areas with high grass may also be at increased risk of infection. 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages, even among experienced physicians who are familiar with the disease.  The early clinical presentation of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is nonspecific and may resemble a variety of other infectious and non-infectious diseases. 

To protect yourself:

·         Layer your clothes.

·         Wear long pants and sleeves when in areas that are likely to have ticks, such as high grass, bushes and woods. Tuck pants legs into socks and shirts into pants.

·         Wear light-colored clothes to makes ticks easier to see.

·         Use tick repellants on exposed skin.

·         Check yourself and your children for ticks at least every six hours. If ticks are removed within a few hours of attachment, it is unlikely that you will contract a disease.

·         Inspect pets for ticks to keep them from bringing ticks into your home.

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