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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Rising

Reported Cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Rising Faster in the Suburbs Than in Rural Areas
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 4, 2007 -- Rocky Mountain spotted fever is becoming more common -- and not just in the Rocky Mountains.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a potentially deadly disease caused by bacteria called Rickettsia rickettsii, which are carried by certain ticks.

Reported U.S. cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever more than tripled between 2001 and 2005, according to the CDC's David Swerdlow, MD, and colleagues.

They presented their findings today in San Diego at the 45th annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA).

In 2001, there were two reported cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever per million people in the U.S. That figure rose to 7.1 cases per million people in 2005.

Suburbs saw a bigger jump in Rocky Mountain spotted fever cases than rural areas.

"This disease is becoming more common in cities and suburbs, likely because people are going to rural areas and coming home to the cities, and possibly also because suburbia is encroaching on rural, tick-infested areas," Swerdlow says in an IDSA news release.

Preventing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

The CDC's web site provides these five tips to limit exposure to ticks:

  • Wear light-colored clothing to make it easier to see (and remove) ticks.
  • Tuck your pants legs into your socks so ticks can't crawl up the inside of your pants legs.
  • Use repellents to discourage ticks from latching on to skin, clothes, or boots (follow product directions).
  • Check your whole body for ticks after visiting potentially tick-infested areas.
  • Check kids' hair and scalp after they've been in potentially tick-infested areas.

Of course, you'll need to remove any ticks you find on your body or clothes.

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