Press Release

August 21, 2008


State public health director warns of increased reports of Rocky Mountain spotted fever after a recent death

Director implores the public to heed the warning and use preventive measures against tick-borne illnesses  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, stresses the importance of preventive measure to protect against tick bites as reports of Rocky Mountain spotted fever increase. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recently received a report of a southern Illinois resident who died after being diagnosed with Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

“We have detected an increase in the number of cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, primarily in southern Illinois. Ticks can carry a number of diseases, but by taking a few precautions, like wearing insect repellent and performing tick checks, you can greatly reduce your risk of contracting tick-borne diseases, like Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” said Dr. Arnold.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is caused by bacteria that are spread to humans through the bite of an infected tick. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is not transmitted person-to-person.

Initial signs and symptoms of the disease include sudden onset of high fever, severe headache, and deep muscle pain, followed by the development of a rash, although not every case of Rocky Mountain spotted fever will have the rash. If the rash does appear, it begins on the legs or arms, may include the soles of the feet or palms of the hands and may spread rapidly to the trunk or the rest of the body. Without prompt and appropriate treatment the disease can be fatal. Antibiotics are used to treat Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Symptoms usually appear between three and 14 days after the bite of an infected tick.

Persons spending time outdoors in areas where ticks are commonly found — wooded areas, tall grass and brush — should take precautions against all tick-borne diseases:

  • Check your clothing often for ticks climbing toward open skin. Wear white or light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants so the tiny ticks are easier to see. Tuck long pants into your socks and boots. Wear a head covering or hat for added protection.
  • For those who may not tolerate wearing all of these clothes in hot, muggy weather, apply insect repellent containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET primarily to clothes. Apply sparingly to exposed skin. Do not spray directly to the face; spray the repellent onto hands and then apply to face. Avoid sensitive areas like the eyes, mouth and nasal membranes. Be sure to wash treated skin after coming indoors. Repellents containing permethrin can be used to treat clothes (especially pants, socks and shoes) but not skin while in locations where ticks may be common. Follow label directions; do not misuse or overuse repellents. Always supervise children in the use of repellents.
  • Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
  • Check yourself, children and other family members every two to three hours for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit tick-borne disease until they have been attached for four or more hours.
  • If you let your pets outdoors, check them often for ticks. Infected ticks also can transmit some tick-borne diseases to them. You are at risk from ticks that “hitch a ride” on your pets, but fall off in your home before they feed.
  • Make sure the property around your home is unattractive to ticks. Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut.

The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with fine-point tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. Be sure to wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.

For more information on Rocky Mountain spotted fever, log onto

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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