San Diego County public health officials are raising awareness of an illness known as Rocky Mountain spotted fever following the death of a San Diego resident who traveled to the Baja California region before falling sick.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease that spreads by ticks on humans and dogs. Some areas where these ticks can bite humans and animals are hiking trails and grassy or wooded areas, usually during the wetter months of winter and spring. However, traveling to places where stray dogs are common, such as Baja California, poses a year-round risk because stray dogs often carry infected ticks.
People can protect themselves by wearing insecticide and proper clothing and use of insect repellent products on their pets that kill fleas and ticks.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is best treated with antibiotics when diagnosed within the first week of illness. The disease gets its name from a spotted red rash that can appear. Early symptoms may include only feverheadaches and stomach aches, so it is important to report any insect bites and recent travel or outdoor activities, when talking to a doctor.
While Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a year-round risk in the Baja California region, San Diego County typically has one to three cases each year. All three cases reported so far this year in county residents had traveled to areas where Rocky Mountain spotted fever is more common. The last local death from the disease was an Imperial County resident who died at a San Diego hospital in 2014.
The county’s vector control program monitors the population of vectors (animals such as ticks, rodents and mosquitoes) that can transmit diseases to humans.
Ticks are tiny, eight-legged insects related to spiders. They wait on top of bushes and branches for passing animals and people to bite them. While they eat their blood meal, any germs they carry can be spread. In addition to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ticks carry other diseases, including Lyme disease and tularemia.
Health officials recommend checking your home and pets for ticks as soon as possible after outdoor activities like hiking to reduce the risk of infection from tick bites. Anyone bitten by a tick should not panic, but carefully remove it with tweezers. You can keep the tick for identification purposes, as only some ticks carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If a person develops a rash or fever after being bitten, they should seek medical attention, tell the doctor about the tick bite, when they were bitten, and where they think it happened. product.
For more information on protecting yourself and your pets from ticks and how to best remove them, visit, Ticks (sandiegocounty.gov).