Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most lethal and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. It has been diagnosed throughout the Americas. Some synonyms for Rocky Mountain spotted fever in other countries include “tick typhus,” “Tobia fever” (Colombia), “São Paulo fever” or “febre maculosa” (Brazil), and “fiebre manchada” (Mexico). It should not be confused with the viral tick-borne infection, Colorado tick fever. The disease is caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a species of bacterium that is spread to humans by ixodid (hard) ticks. Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of fever, headache, and muscle pain, followed by development of rash. The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal
Initial symptoms may include: * fever * nausea * emesis * severe headache * muscle pain * lack of appetite Later signs and symptoms include: * maculopapular rash * petechial rash * abdominal pain * joint pain
Appropriate antibiotic treatment is initiated immediately when there is a suspicion of Rocky Mountain spotted fever on the basis of clinical and epidemiological findings. Treatment should not be delayed until laboratory confirmation is obtained. In fact, failure to respond to a tetracycline antibiotic argues against a diagnosis of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Severely ill patients may require longer periods before their fever resolves, especially if they have experienced damage to multiple organ systems. Preventive therapy in non-ill patients who have had recent tick bites is not recommended and may, in fact, only delay the onset of disease. Doxycycline (For adults, 100 mg every 12 hours. For children under 45 kg [100 lb], 4 mg/kg body weight per day in two divided doses) is the drug of choice for patients with Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Therapy is continued for at least 3 days after fever subsides and until there is unequivocal evidence of clinical improvement, generally for a minimum total course of 5 to 10 days. Severe or complicated disease may require longer treatment courses. Doxycycline is also the preferred drug for patients with ehrlichiosis, another tick-transmitted infection with signs and symptoms that may resemble Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Chloramphenicol is an alternative drug that can be used to treat Rocky Mountain spotted fever; however, this drug may be associated with a wide range of side effects and may require careful monitoring of blood levels (as it can cause aplastic anemia).