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DHS Urges Caution Following Tick-borne Disease Death

Place clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks being carried on clothing. (Pixabay)
Place clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks being carried on clothing. (Pixabay)
July 13, 2018

MADISON, Wis. – The first-ever death in Wisconsin from Rocky Mountain spotted fever has state health officials warning residents to stay vigilant, not just during the summer months but year-round.

If left untreated, the disease – carried by ticks – can cause severe illness, and it took the life of a La Crosse County resident on Tuesday. Rocky Mountain spotted fever isn't as common as Lyme disease, and it's even less common in Wisconsin.

But Wisconsin Department of Health Services vector-borne disease epidemiologist Rebecca Osborn says it's important to recognize the signs and get medical care.

"They develop symptoms like fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, headache, things like that, muscle aches – to go see their healthcare provider for possible testing and treatment," says Osborn.

Osborn says her department hears about five to 10 cases of Rocky Mountain fever per year. Most are successfully treated with antibiotics. Details surrounding the death have not yet been released.

Osborn says it's critical to do careful self-examinations after trekking through areas known to have ticks. She adds while tick bites are more common during the spring and summer, it's still important to take precautions across the seasons.

"Any time that ticks are active when temperatures are above freezing, you know, there is a possible risk of tick-borne diseases,” says Osborn. “So, it's important to sort of stay diligent through the summer and even in the fall."

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is most common in the central and southeastern parts of the United States.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - WI