Outbreak of Deadly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in California

(UnitedHeadlines.com) – Three people have died following an outbreak of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in southern California that began in July.

According to a Dec. 8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health advisory, five cases of RMSF have been reported. All five people were diagnosed with the disease in southern California hospitals between July and December. According to the health advisory, four people were under 18 years old, and one was an adult.

Three of those affected lived in the United States, while two were residents of Mexico.

All five people traveled to or lived in Tecate, Baja California, within two weeks of becoming sick.

RMSF is endemic in several northern Mexico states that border the United States, such as Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo León, and some areas in the southwestern part of the United States. According to the CDC, RMSF is “transmitted by the bite of infected ticks.” The bacteria that causes the fever is Rickettsia rickettsii, which is spread by infected brown dog ticks.

If not treated early, RMSF is often fatal. It has a fatality rate in Mexico of more than 40 percent. It is five deadlier for children under the age of 10 compared to adults, according to the CDC.

In the first few days, the symptoms are mild, such as a headache, low grade fever, gastrointestinal symptoms, abdominal pain, muscle aches and swelling. Some patients also develop a spotted rash. Symptoms, such as mental disorientation, swelling in the brain, coma, death of body tissue, organ damage, and a decline in respiratory function, begin to develop in those with the disease.

The antibiotic doxycycline is the standard treatment for people infected with RMSF.

NYU Langone Medical Center clinical professor of medicine Dr. Marc Siegel stated that he is concerned that migrants crossing the border could also be bringing ticks with the disease across the border.

When evaluating patients with fever who have recently been in northern Mexico, the CDC urges healthcare providers to consider the potential of RMSF.

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