A woman who contracted a potentially deadly disease after unknowingly being bitten by a tick during a July vacation in northeast Oklahoma had to have her arms and legs amputated.
KOCO reported that Jo Rogers, 40, had her right leg amputated, her left leg amputated below the knee and her arms amputated below both elbows to stop the disease, called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), from spreading. Rogers was vacationing at Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, a 46,500-acre lake in the foothills of the Ozark Mountain Range in northeast Oklahoma that is well known for its bass fishing.
Four days after returning from her vacation, Rogers thought she had a flu, but after her symptoms didn’t subside on the fifth day, she went to the hospital, where doctors tested her for West Nile virus and meningitis. Both tests came back negative.
"She was shaking her hands because they hurt, her feet hurt," Rogers’ cousin Lisa Morgan told KOCO. Rogers’ limbs turned black and blue. On the seventh day after her return, doctors found she had been bitten by a tick and infected with RMSF.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of the disease start two to 14 days after the bite and include headache, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. Outpatient medication may help those treated early, while intravenous antibiotics, prolonged hospitalization or intensive care may be required for those with more severe cases.
Oklahoma is one of five states where the infection rate for the disease is three to 10 times the national average. But according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, only 1 to 3 percent of the tick population is infected with the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii (R. rickettsii), which causes RMSF. The tick most commonly associated with RMSF is the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health estimates that 3 to 5 percent of people with RMSF die, but death is uncommon with immediate diagnosis and treatment.
Rogers' family has started a GoFundMe page to cover her increasing medical bills. They are focusing on helping the mother of two— her sons, ages 17 and 12— stay strong.
“You’re still with us,” Morgan said of her cousin. “You’re going to get to watch your boys grow up. You’ve got a lot of people pulling for you.”