Michigan Confirms Potentially Deadly Tick-Borne Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Diagnosis — Health Warnings Issued After First Case Since 2009

The first case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in seven years has been confirmed by health officials in Michigan who are now warning residents to protect themselves from this potentially deadly tick-borne disease. It has been stated that the current sufferer from the disease is a Cass County child.

The findings that Rocky Mountain spotted fever had returned was announced by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday morning. The disease has been absent since 2009 in the state, but earlier this month the child was diagnosed and hospitalized with the symptoms of the disease.

Fortunately, Wood TV reported that the public information officer with the MDHHS, Jennifer Eisner, has advised that the child was treated and is now back at home and recovering well. The health officials have not, however, released either the age or the identity of the child.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease which is caused by the bacterium, Rickettsia rickettsii, and has been known to be fatal if treatment is not administered promptly and correctly, even in a person who was previously healthy. A news release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services advised that the typical symptoms of the disease include abdominal and muscle pain, fever, as well as vomiting and the possibility also exists that a rash will develop a few days after the other symptoms.

The state says the best means of protection is to prevent tick bites. Anyone with possible symptoms should contact a doctor immediately. Typically, the rash consists of small, flat, pink spots that do not itch and can usually develop on the wrists, forearms, as well as the ankles, and often spreads to include the trunk, and sometimes even the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. However, many people do not develop the rash. Death is not a common effect.

Dr. Eden Wells, chief medical executive of the health department in the state of Michigan issued a statement urging the public to protect themselves against ticks in the face of the Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“Like all tick-borne illnesses, the best way to protect yourself against Rocky Mountain spotted fever is to prevent tick bites. Let your doctor know right away if you develop signs of illness such as fever, rash, or body aches in the days after a tick bite or potential exposure. Early detection and treatment are essential to preventing serious health complications.”

According to Michigan Live, the symptoms of RMSF often mimic those of other illnesses, but if anyone experiences any of those listed they should seek medical attention. The state is currently working alongside local health officials in order to reach as many doctors as possible so as to alert them to be on the lookout for the rarely-seen disease in Michigan. Serologic testing was used to confirm the case confirmed this month. Initial tests for RMSF can return as negative though, and since early treatment is key to preventing serious health complications, including death, doctors often treat the tick-borne disease based on clinical suspicion.

The antibiotic doxycycline is the first line treatment for Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

There are several varieties of ticks in the U.S. which can transmit the disease and it includes the most common tick found in Michigan — the American dog tick or RMFS. Outside of Michigan, the Rocky Mountain wood tick, Dermacentor andersoni, and the brown dog tick, Rhipecephalus sanguineus, are also transmitters of the disease.

Health officials have outline several ways to prevent tick bites:

Avoid areas infested with ticks. Stick to the center of walking trails so as to avoid contact with overgrown grass, brush, and leaf litter; the favored habitats of ticks.

Tick prevention products should be used on pets. Dogs and cats often contract ticks outdoors and can bring them into the home; the regime can range from a monthly pill to using tick shampoos.

Apply insect repellent. Those with DEET (20-30 percent) or Picaridin are best to apply on exposed skin. Clothes, shoes, tents, etc, can treat with permethrin, which kills the ticks on contact and should not to be used directly on the skin.

Frequent Baths or showers. Health officials recommend doing this within two hours of an outside trip, when ticks would be more easy to find. Tumble dry clothing on high heat for 10 minutes to kill ticks, damp clothes can stay longer and if washing is needed, use hot water.

Perform daily tick checks. Check yourself and pets for ticks after going outside. If any are discovered it should be removed with tweezers and antiseptic used to clean the area.

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