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Infectious disease expert warns of spread of Rocky Mountain spotted fever

best means of curbing the potentially deadly impact of the disease, which can be effectively treated with specific antibiotics if caught early.

"Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a dangerous and potentially fatal disease, unlike its more widespread cousin, Lyme disease, which is almost never fatal," he says. In the latest study, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control report on 16 cases in which two children contracted the fever and died. "Because its first symptoms are very hard to distinguish from many other illnesses, it is often hard to diagnose unless you are looking out for it," he adds.

The first signs of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the scientist says, are body-wide aches and pains accompanied by headache and a sudden high fever, sometimes as high as 105 degrees Fahrenheit (or 40.5 degrees Celsius). Symptoms may also include sore throat and nausea. The spotty rash, which occurs in at least 85 percent of patients, does not appear until later in the infection and resembles a pinpoint pattern of pink-to-red spots over the entire body, or parts thereof. The rash is also noticeable on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands, where rashes do not usually appear. At this later stage of infection, antibiotic therapy becomes somewhat less effective.

In the CDC-led study, government researchers took blood and skin tissue samples from 16 patients across Southeastern Arizona suspected of having the infection. Laboratory tests, including immunohistochemical staining, confirmed that 11 had the disease, while the remaining five were still probable cases.

When the researchers examined the patients' home environments for possible clues to the source of infection, they found fever-infected ticks in all patients' yards. Ticks were found in the cracks of stucco walls on patients' homes, in crawl spaces under these homes and on furniture placed outside for children and pets. All patients owned and had come in contact with dogs with
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Source:Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions


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