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Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is an infection caused by the bite of an infected tick. It affects over 2,000 people a year in the U.S. and usually occurs from April until September. But, it can occur anytime during the year where the weather is warm. It was first recognized in the Rocky Mountain states, but may occur throughout the U.S. Most common areas affected are in the southeastern and south central U.S. The disease is spread to humans through a bite from an infected tick. It is not spread from person to person.
RMSF is caused by a bacterium that is spread to people by the bite of an infected tick. In the U.S., the American dog tick, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick are the ticks that transmit the RMSF bacteria.
People living in or visiting areas where ticks are prevalent, particularly the southeastern and south central U.S., are at risk for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
The following are the most common symptoms of RMSF:
RMSF is a serious illness that needs treatment as soon as possible. Death has occurred in untreated cases of RMSF.
Symptoms of RMSF may look like other conditions or medical problems. See a healthcare provider for diagnosis.
Diagnosis is based on symptoms and history of a tick bite. How the rash looks is important. Skin samples and lab tests are usually done to rule out other conditions and confirm the diagnosis.
Specific treatment for Rocky Mountain spotted fever will be determined by your healthcare provider based on the following:
RMSF can be cured when treated with antibiotics. However, if untreated, serious complications can occur including:
Once you’ve had RMSF, you can’t get it again. To help prevent RMSF, follow these guidelines.
Ticks can't bite though clothing, so dress in:
It's important to check often for ticks, especially on these parts of the body:
Be sure to use any insect repellents safely.
The following may also be helpful:
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, let your healthcare provider know.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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