Michiana resident diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever

By: Erin Logan Email
By: Erin Logan Email

Ticks are insects you may not notice until it's too late.

That bug is the source of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and we've been told a local doctor is in the hospital with the disease and at least one other case has been diagnosed.

The St. Joseph County Health Department did confirm one case and said a second is being investigated.

As for the doctor who is hospitalized, it's not confirmed where he was when he was bitten by a tick, but we're told the disease can be acquired almost anywhere around the United States.

Nine year old Brittany Eisenhardt says, "I just feel around for them."

It sounds strange, but doctors say it's smart.

Checking for ticks is part of Brittany daily routine.

That's because her uncle almost lost his life after a hunting trip.

Her mother, April Eisenhardt, says, "He wound up in the hospital and was paralyzed for about a week because he was bit by a tick. He got Rocky Mountain spotted fever. He was sick for probably six months after that."

Dr. Bruce Harley at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center says it's rare in this area, but Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be acquired and it can be serious.

He says, "Even with treatment, there's a three to five percent fatality rate."

Dr. Harley says Rocky Mountain spotted fever can only be contracted by tick bites. It's not contagious.

He says, "The germ is rickettsia. It's the germ in the tick. When they bite you, they inject the germ into you."

Dr. Harley says symptoms are headache, body aches and fever, but the main characteristic is a rash.

He says, "It starts in the hands and feet and goes up the legs and arms towards the body and manifests in the body, and after about five days the rash turns from pink to red."

He says it's easily treated, but here's the scary part:

"It's not like a mosquito bite, like where you get bit there's a rash."

The Eisenhardts say that's why the whole family does tick checks.

April Eisenhardt says, "You can't feel it when they bite you. It's strange. You don't find it until later and they're hooked on you so good, you have to try to get them off and they take skin off and everything."

Dr. Harley says the last case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever he can remember is about five years ago in the Kalamazoo area.

If you would like more information, you can visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/rmsf/.


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