Minnesota has recorded its first death from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a rare disease in the state that can be spread by a common wood tick, the state Health Department said last week.
The department reported a young child with no underlying health problems from Dakota County died of the disease in July and that the child was probably bitten by an infected tick within the county.
About 2,000 Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases are recorded in the U.S. each year, but they tend to be in southern, eastern and western states.
The disease is very rare in Minnesota, but the American dog tick — also called the wood tick — that can spread it is common here.
“It’s another reason people should take very good precautions against tick bites,” said Melissa Kemperman, a Health Department expert in tick-transmitted diseases.
Spotted fever symptoms include high fever, headache and a rash that usually appears two to five days after the fever starts. Patients also often have pain in their muscles and joints, lose their appetite and feel nauseated. About 5 percent of patients die.
The Health Department also reported its second case of Powassan encephalitis earlier this year — the first was in 2008.
Both cases were from Cass County and both victims were hospitalized for swelling of the brain.Kemperman said only about 50 cases of Powassan encephalitis have identified nationwide since 1958.
Powassan can be spread by the same deer tick, also called the blacklegged tick, that spreads Lyme disease.
Kemperman said it’s possible for one tick to infect someone with multiple diseases at once.
The department recommends that anyone going into tick country use repellents containing at least 30 percent DEET or permethrin, wear long pants and remove any ticks before they have a change to bite.
The risk of tick-borne diseases in Minnesota is highest from late spring through midsummer. During autumn, deer ticks become active again and raise the risk of transmitting Powassan and Lyme diseases, anaplasmosis and babesiosis.