Michigan reports child case of tick-borne Rocky Mountain spotted fever

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Health officials in Michigan are warning residents to beware of ticks after identifying a child case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), a serious and sometimes fatal tick-borne illness.

Fox 2 Detroit reported that the child, whose sex, name and age weren’t disclosed, is from Cass County. The state’s last case of RMSF was 2009, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

RMSF symptoms include fever, vomiting, and muscle and abdominal pain. Affected individuals sometimes exhibit a rash of small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots on the wrists, forearms and ankles that spreads to the trunk and sometimes the palms of the hands and soles of the feet a few days after infection, the news station reported. But some people with the condition never develop the rash, or the rash may look different than usual.

Prompt treatment for RMSF is crucial, as failure to undergo therapy can result in serious illness or death, Fox 2 Detroit reported. A 40-year-old woman vacationing in northeast Oklahoma who mistook her RMSF as the flu was forced to have several of her limbs partially or fully amputated after contracting the disease in July 2015.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the antibiotic doxycycline is the first-line treatment for the condition for adults and children, and it is most effective if started before the fifth day of symptoms.

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The bacterium Rickettsia rickettsia causes RMSF, according to the CDC. Various ticks, including the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabalis) as well as the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni) and the brown dog tick (Rhipecephalus sanguineus) carry RMSF. The most common tick in Michigan is the American dog tick.

Incidence of RMSF has increased during the last decade, from less than two cases per million people in 2000 to more than six cases per million in 2010, according to the CDC. However, the proportion of RMSF cases resulting in death has declined to a low of less than .5 percent during that same time period.

Methods for preventing RMSF and other tick-borne illnesses include avoiding tick-infested areas, using insect repellent, bathing oneself and washing clothes within a couple of hours of coming indoors from a potentially infested area, and performing daily tick checks.