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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Animals

Source: Center for Disease Control Updated on July 16, 2015
Ticks

What is Rocky Mountain spotted fever?

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii (rick-ETT-cee-uh rick-ETT-cee-eye), which is carried by ticks. People usually start having fevers and feeling nauseous about a week after being bitten by a tick, although some people do not remember having had a tick bite. A few days after the fever begins, people who have Rocky Mountain spotted fever often have a rash, usually on their arms or ankles. They also may have pain in their joints, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Sometimes people with this disease are very sick and have to go to the hospital.

Can animals transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever to me?

Yes, but not directly. People get this disease when they are bitten by a tick that is carrying the bacterium R. rickettsia. Because ticks on dogs can be infected with R. rickettsii, dogs and people can get Rocky Mountain spotted fever from the same ticks. These ticks can also bite other animals and pass Rocky Mountain spotted fever to them. When you remove ticks from any animal, the crushed tick or its parts can also pass this disease through any cuts or scrapes on your skin.

How can I protect myself from getting Rocky Mountain spotted fever from my pets?

  • When returning from potentially tick-infested areas, check yourself and your children for ticks, especially in the hair. Additionally, ticks may be carried into the household on clothing and pets. Both should be examined carefully.
  • To prevent ticks from getting on your pets, consult your veterinarian.
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