A 53-year-old woman in northwest suburban Woodstock is hospitalized with Rocky Mountain spotted fever from a tick bite, according to McHenry County health officials, who had not seen a case of the disease in four years.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be severe or even fatal if not treated in the first few days of symptoms, even in healthy people, according to the McHenry County Department of Health, which said it was not known where the woman received the bite. The Woodstock woman was the first reported case in the county since 2008.
Patients treated early may recover quickly, but those who experience a more severe case may require prolonged hospitalization and develop long-term health problems. Officials are warning residents to take precautions against tick bites.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first symptoms of RMSF typically begin 2-14 days after the bite of an infected tick. The bite is usually painless and about half of the people who develop RMSF do not remember being bitten. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may develop, but is often absent in the first few days. Few people develop all the symptoms, and the number and combination of symptoms varies greatly.
The best ways to protect against tick-borne illness includes:
— Educate your family about tick identification, removal and symptom awareness.
— Walk in the center of trails, avoiding wooded, bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter (including vacant lots in residential areas).
— Wear light-colored clothing to make ticks easier to find, and tuck long pants into socks and boots.
— Apply insect repellent containing DEET (30 percent or less) to exposed skin.
Officials recommend keeping pets out of tick habitats like tall grass and brush, and have vets recommend an over-the-counter repellent. Always examine pets before bringing them inside.
The CDC recommends bathing or showering as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks.