The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that around 10% of people infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) die from the disease. This was not the case for a woman from Oklahoma, but it did result in amputations on all four of her limbs.
Jo Rogers most likely contracted the disease through a bite from the American dog tick, which is known to transmit RMSF, during a lake visit. RMSF is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii and infections in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri make up more than half of all RMSF cases.
Rogers initially thought she had the flu when the disease began wreaking havoc on her body, with fever, headache and vomiting being three of the typical initial symptoms (CDC). The disease is occasionally accompanied by a speckled rash (its namesake) which helps to diagnose the disease and allow the correct antibiotics to be administered as soon as possible. Treatment is best received if ordered before the fifth day of symptoms, but the severity of Rogers’ condition suggests she was not diagnosed soon enough to prevent severe damage to her body from the infection.
If untreated for too long, RMSF can cause great harm to the brain and other vital organs. R. rickettsii invades the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels and causes harmful bleeding (CDC). In Rogers’ case, delayed treatment allowed the bacteria to begin invading the blood vessels, so her legs were amputated below the knee and her arms below the elbow to prevent the infection from spreading further and killing her.
Tick bites should definitely be taken seriously, especially in the summer time when infection rates boom.
In the video below, Dr. Stephen Gluckman discusses the pathology of RMSF in more detail.
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