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What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What Is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is mostly seen to occur in the Southeastern part of United States. It is also seen in parts of Canada, Mexico, central and South America. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a form of bacterial infection spread by the bite of a tick. This condition requires prompt treatment, if this is not done, it may result in potentially serious complications with significant damage to many vital organs of the body like the kidneys and the heart.

Severe headache and high fever are the first symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This is followed with development of a rash usually on the wrists and ankles. Antibiotics are the best way to treat and cure Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

What Causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

What Causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

Rickettsia rickettsii is the offending bacterium responsible for the development of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Ticks carrying this bacterium are the primary source of transmission of this infection. If the infected tick attaches itself to the body and start to feed on the blood for period of about eight hours then in all likelihood that individual will get infected with this bacterium and end up having Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

The worst part of it is that the tick that carries this bacterium is hardly visible, so the individual may not even know that the tick is feeding on his or her blood. These ticks are extremely active in warmer temperatures when people spend more time outdoors camping and doing other activities outdoors. There is no proof to suggest that this condition is contagious meaning that an individual with close contact with an infected person will not get the infected by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

What Are The Symptoms Of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?

In majority of the cases, individuals fall sick within the first week of them getting the infection but the primary symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever may not be evident for the first two weeks after transmission of the infection. Initially, the affected individual will complain of severe headaches, high fever, and chills. This will be followed by muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, and spots on the wrists and ankles which are the major give away when diagnosing an individual with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. In some cases, there are certain neurological changes such as confusion noted in individuals with it.

How is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Diagnosed?

During the initial stages of the infection, it may be difficult to definitively diagnose Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever as the symptoms are quite common to various other illnesses. Once the rash appears on the wrist and ankles, it is suspected. Physicians may also order blood tests for confirmatory diagnosis, but may not wait for the results if this condition is suspected and may start treatment for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

How Is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Treated?

If Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is diagnosed within a week of the individual getting infected then the likelihood of the individual having complications of this condition is extremely rare. That is the precise reason why physicians may begin treatment for this condition before even reaching a conclusive diagnosis.

Antibiotics are the best way to treat Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Medication that is mostly used for treating this condition is Doxycycline, although this medication may not be used if the individual is pregnant. In such cases, chloramphenicol will be used as an alternative to treat it.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: https://www.cdc.gov/rmsf/index.html
  2. American Lyme Disease Foundation – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: https://www.aldf.com/rocky-mountain-spotted-fever/
  3. MedlinePlus – Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000654.htm

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 3, 2023

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