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Starkville Man's Disease Prompts Warning About Ticks

Posted by Steve Rogers | July 20, 2012 / 05:18pm | Local News, Health
STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) -- It's a tick borne disease that affects less than 3,000 people in the United States every year. But with the area's mild winter, the bugs and ticks are out this summer and in bigger swarms than usual.

Doctors already have seen a few cases of Lyme disease and a Starkville man has contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever. It has doctors worried that more may be on the way this summer.

Parker Griffith says he never would have guessed he had the Rocky Mountain spotted fever. After taking his dog out for its regular morning walk in Starkville in early July, he started feeling very sick.

"I got real tired, real fatigued and eventually I would get up to do something and I'd break out in a complete sweat. And I knew something was going on, and just couldn't figure out what it was," Griffith said.

Griffith is one of the few across the country suffering from spotted fever. The CDC reports only eight people for every million got the tick- transmitted illness in 2008. Doctors say after a tick bites, it only needs to feed off you for four to six hours before your blood can be infected. Symptoms then start with a fever, body aches, and fatigue, and of course a spotted rash.

For Griffith, a small rash on his back tipped his doctor, and blood test confirmed he had the spotted fever. The disease is something a simple round of antibiotics can take care of, but doctors say the hard part is the diagnosis.

Many sicknesses begin with a fever or rash but unless you know you were bitten, it could take time for you and your doctor to realize it's the spotted fever.

"I walk my dog all the time and we're under trees, and she's walking under things. So I probably just got a tick on our morning walk and ended up washing it off in the shower but just never really knew it," Griffith explained.

Doctors say to take precautions when heading outdoors.

"Wear bug spray, something with D-E-T. If you're going to be in the woods and that's your plan, wear protective clothing -- long sleeves, pants, boots, tuck your pants into your boots and then when you get out check yourself," said Nurse Practitioner Stephanie Gale.

And if you do find a tick, "Rub it with a little alcohol on a cotton swab and then with tweezers grab it as close to the skin as possible and do a gentle pull," Gale says.

Gale says in a rural area like Mississippi ticks can be found everywhere.

"Ticks aren't something you think about all the time, living in a city, you think well if I'm going to go for a hike I'll check for ticks but ticks are something you should check for all the time because people think of Lyme disease, but Rocky Mountain spotted fever is nothing to mess with," she said.

Currently there is no human vaccine for spotted fever. A vaccine was at one time available for Lyme disease but it has been pulled because of the low demand. Gale says she already has seen several Lyme disease cases in her clinic this summer, but so far no spotted fever.
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