|Official Press Release
Contact: Bill Furney
Date: July 9, 2008
RALEIGH – The recent death of a Wilkes County resident believed to have been caused by Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a sad reminder that North Carolinians and visitors to our state must be especially diligent in protecting themselves from tick bites and in monitoring their health if bitten.
“Unfortunately, North Carolina often has the highest number of reported Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases in the country,” State Health Director Leah Devlin said. “There were 665 cases reported statewide during 2007 – with one death – and we expect to have a similar number this year. Sadly, the death of the Wilkes County resident demonstrates that the disease can sometimes be fatal, so we urge everyone in our state to take precautions seriously.”
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii (rick-ETT-see-uh rick-ETT-see-eye) and is carried by ticks. If bitten by an infected tick, a person will usually start having fever, severe headaches and nausea within about a week or two. A few days after the illness begins, they will often develop a red-spotted rash, usually starting on their arms or ankles. They also may have pain in their joints, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Sometimes people with this illness become very sick and have to go to the hospital.
Although deaths from RMSF are rare, this case highlights the need for preventing tick bites.
“This information could be a tremendous help to doctors should you become ill,” she said. “It is also helpful if the tick can be saved so its species can be identified. People who become ill should promptly consult their doctor, so treatment is started early.”
People can protect themselves from Rocky Mountain spotted fever by limiting their exposure to ticks:
Even when a tick is infected, several hours of attachment are required (at least 4 to 6) before it may transmit the infectious agent that causes RMSF. If you are bitten by a tick, remove the tick immediately to reduce the chance of infection. To remove a tick:
For more information about RMSF and other tick borne illness, see the N.C. Division of Public Health web site at www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/tick. For more information on ticks, visit the Public Health Pest Management web site at www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/phpm/index.html.
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