Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
June 9, 2021
Last week, a young man from the community made the trip to Great Falls to receive treatment for a suspected case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF). The decision to seek medical help was made after he suffered a handful of symptoms that prompted a trip to the ER and then to the hospital. Fortunately, tests for the condition ultimately came back negative. However, anyone working in grassy or wooded areas can potentially pick up ticks that carry the bacteria responsible for the illness. With tick season in full swing, it is important to know what to look for from the illness and how to avoid exposure.
According to Krystyl Kulbeck, a Physician’s Assistant at Big Sandy Clinic, the bacteria itself is transmitted via tick bite. Though “...up to one third of the patients do not report a history of a tick bite, as at times the site is not found. The tick usually has to be attached for at least 6 to 10 hours as the bacteria is then released from the salivary glands of the tick.” Within 2 weeks, the infected individual will begin to develop a rash. “There are multiple other clinical symptoms that are usually nonspecific and include headache, fever, chest pain, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, cough, bleeding, body aches, swelling and neurological symptoms including confusion and seizures.”
Krystyl explains that, “Anyone that is bitten by a tick should watch for possible symptoms of RMSF, with a rash being the most common, and seek medical attention immediately. You should also seek medical attention if you have a fever,
headache, and constitutional symptoms in the spring and summer months if you have been in an area known for having ticks or a known tick bite.” She goes on to explain that the antibiotic regimen used to treat RMSF isn’t necessary for everyone who has been bitten by a tick, as only a small percentage of those who are bitten contract RMSF.
The best way to avoid exposure to RMSF is to avoid tick bites and to remove them properly if they get embedded. Because it takes so long to contract the illness, it is relatively easy to check yourself, your kids, and pets for ticks when they come in from areas where there is tall grass or trees. Hats, long sleeves, and long pants will also provide some protection, particularly if you wear light colored clothing, as ticks tend to stand out against lighter backgrounds. According to the University of Michigan Health Website, putting potentially exposed clothing into a dryer on high heat for an hour will generally kill ticks. UofMHealth.org recommends removing embedded ticks using tweezers. They stress the importance of grasping as close to the mouth of the tick as you can.. The mouth will be attached to your skin. It’s important not to grab the body, as you can potentially push fluids back into your body if you squeeze it. Gently pull the tick away from your skin until it lets go and comes away freely. It is important not to twist the tick, as this can break it’s body from it’s head leaving parts underneath your skin. If this does happen, it will likely come out on its own within a few days. Washing your hands and the area of the bite are important. The website recommends applying Vaseline or petroleum jelly to the bite before bandaging. The Mountaineer is not a medical resource. You should consult a qualified medical professional if you have issues or concerns.