This bacterial disease was first identified in the Rocky Mountains, but is also found in the south eastern part of United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America. The potentially fatal disease is spread by the bites of wood ticks or dog ticks. Spring and summer seasons see a sudden increase in the number of reported cases of this fever and is most commonly found in children. If left unattended, the symptoms may lead to life threatening complications.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by the infection of the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. It is spread through different species of ticks including the American dog tick, wood tick, and brown dog tick. Bite of ticks carrying the infectious bacteria is the most common form of transmission of this disease. It may also spread when the tick blood containing bacteria comes in contact with the mucous membrane of the mouth, nose and eyes. This may happen when the person crushes the tick with the hands after picking it from the pets with bare hands and then touches nose or mouth. The spread is common during summer as the ticks are more active and people tend to spend more time outdoors during this season.
Symptoms of the disease may start appearing after two weeks of initial infection.
Some of the common initial symptoms of the disease include:
- High grade fever and chills
- Muscle pain
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
About three to five days after the onset of the fever, most of the people start developing a characteristic skin rash. The rash appears as small pink spots that become raised, darker papules. The rashes start from the wrists and ankles and then gradually spread to hands, soles of feet, trunk, neck and face. In some rare cases, rashes may not be seen and this makes diagnosis of the disease difficult. Localized bleeding may happen which is manifested in the form of reddish pin-point spots at the center of these rashes. These points may later joint together to form a larger hemorrhagic patch on the skin.
This bacterial infection may damage the blood vessels leading to blood leakage and clot formation. It may also affect other organs like lungs, brain, spinal cord, heart, liver and kidneys. All this may lead to potentially dangerous complications like kidney failure, gangrene, heart failures and even death. The disease may progress rapidly and it is important to immediately go to the doctor if you fall sick after tick bite or if you develop a skin rash after being outdoors in a place where the disease is common.