Basics – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Q. What are the symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever?
Q. How is Rocky Mountain spotted fever diagnosed?
Q. How is Rocky Mountain spotted fever treated?
Q. What are the symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever?

A. Despite its name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is far more prevalent in the South and East than it is in the Rocky Mountains. Like Lyme disease, it is caused by a bacterium. Untreated, it can sometimes be a fatal disease. It is spread by dog ticks as well as the deer tick. After two to fourteen days, most infected people suffer from a fever (sometimes 102°F or higher), headache, and achiness. Most people will develop a rash which may begin around the wrists and ankles, but it sometimes starts on the trunk. A classic symptom is a rash on the palms and soles of the feet, but fewer than half of the patients will have that. Untreated, about half of the people infected with Rocky Mountain spotted fever will develop permanent neurological problems.

If you handle a tick while removing it, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly to minimize your risk of infection with RMSF. There are reports of infection simply from contact with an infected tick.

Q. How is Rocky Mountain spotted fever diagnosed?

A. RMSF requires a clinical diagnosis, which means that it is up to your doctor to evaluate your signs and symptoms to determine if you have the disease. Early blood tests are not accurate.

Q. How is Rocky Mountain spotted fever treated?

A. Doxycycline is the recommended antibiotic for RMSF.

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