Tick-Borne Illness Suspected in 2-Year-Old's Death

June 9, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors suspect the tick-borne disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever caused the death of a 2-year-old Indianapolis girl.

However, the diagnosis for Kenley Ratliff has not been confirmed, and autopsy results will not be available for a week, CNN reported.

Her aunt, Jordan Clapp, described the course of Kenley's illness.

"She started with a fever of 100.8. That was at the first hospital. We were advised to keep her hydrated and rested. Her fever went up to 104, so we went to a second hospital. They gave her more antibiotics," Clapp told CNN.

Kenley tested positive for strep throat and received more antibiotics. But she still had a high fever after four or five days and was going limp. Light pink rashes also started appearing.

It was only when Kenley was given another antibiotic and the pink rashes turned dark purple-red that doctors at Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis suspected Kenley might have Rocky Mountain spotted fever, CNN reported.

"Because they had already given her so many antibiotics, they had to wait to give her the antibiotic to treat Rocky Mountain spotted fever," Clapp said. "By then, her brain was so swollen from the weeklong fever. She was brain-dead before they could give her the antibiotic."

Symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever include fever, headaches, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle pain and rashes within two to 14 days. The disease can be fatal if not treated within the first few days. The most effective treatment is receiving the antibiotic doxycycline within five days after symptoms appear, CNN reported.

There are more than 3,000 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts advise people who have been outside to check their hair, scalp and other areas of the body for ticks, and to put clothes in a dryer in order to kill ticks, CNN reported.