Wisconsin reports 1st documented Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever death

On Tuesday, Wisconsin state health officials and the La Crosse County Health Department announced the first documented death from Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in the state.

“We are saddened to learn of this death and encourage Wisconsin residents to take steps to protect themselves and their families from tick bites while enjoying the outdoors,” said Karen McKeown, State Health Officer.

  • Use an insect repellent with at least 20% DEET or another EPA-registered repellent according to the label instructions.
  • Use 0.5% permethrin products on clothing, socks, and shoes according to label instructions.
  • Stay on trails and avoid walking through tall grasses and brush.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to avoid ticks crawling under clothing.
  • Check your entire body for ticks after being outdoors.
  • Take a shower as soon as possible after coming in from outdoors.
  • Place clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes to kill any ticks on clothing.
  • Use a veterinarian-prescribed tick prevention treatment on pets.

RMSF is rarely reported in Wisconsin and most commonly occurs in the central and southeastern regions of the United States. Most tickborne diseases transmitted in Wisconsin are spread by the blacklegged (or deer) tick; RMSF, however, is spread by the bite of the American dog (or wood) tick. Early symptoms of RMSF can be mild and typically include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash, and stomach pain. If left untreated, however, a RMSF infection can rapidly develop into a serious illness.

Of the illnesses spread by ticks in Wisconsin, Lyme disease is the most common, but ticks can also spread anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and more rarely RMSF and Powassan virus. Many people who contract a tickborne disease do not recall a tick bite, so it’s also important to be aware of the common symptoms of tickborne disease such as fever, rash, headache, body aches, and fatigue.

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