Local News

Be Wary Of Ticks, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Posted August 21, 2002

— From its name, many think Rocky Mountain spotted fever is not a problem in North Carolina. But almost every year, the state has the highest number of cases in the country. Left untreated, the disease can be deadly.

Ellen and Dan Caston love the wooded area behind their Chapel Hill home. They were never concerned about the ticks that come with it until Ellen got sick.

"I started just getting really sore muscles and I thought it was arthritis," she said.

However, it was not arthritis. Ellen learned she had Rocky Mountain spotted fever She said she did not know when she got the tick bite that made her sick.

Health officials say North Carolina has more cases than anywhere else in the country.

"Probably the incidence of Spotted Fever in North Carolina is only 3 to 5 per 100,000 per year," Duke epidemiologist Dr. Daniel Sexton said.

Duke epidemiologist Dr. Daniel Sexton believes ticks thrive in North Carolina due to the high number of grassy wooded areas. Ticks also like the state's climate.

"The ticks are probably active because of the temperate climate for longer periods of the year," Sexton said.

Spotted fever symtoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches and, in 90 percent of cases, a rash. Blood tests can detect Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but only 10 to 12 days after symptoms appear.

"You treat first and find out later if they have spotted fever," Sexton said.

Insect repellants with DEET can prevent tick bites. Experts suggest checking for ticks after spending any time outdoors. If you do get a tick bite and start running fever or having pain, you should see your doctor.

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