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What's it like: To be treated for a tick-borne illness

As the temperatures warm up, more Oklahomans will spend time outside. And some of them will encounter one of nature's pests — ticks.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: June 16, 2013

Not every tick bite results in illness. But when you do get sick after getting a tick bite, it's important to see a doctor, for it could escalate quickly.

There are a few types of tick-borne illnesses seen in Oklahoma.

Lyme disease is well known as a tick-borne illness, but it's not common in the state. Since 1999, the state Health Department has reported fewer than eight cases of Lyme disease each year.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, however, is more common, and Oklahoma reports one of the highest rates of spotted fever cases in the United States. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. About 80 percent of people who have Rocky Mountain spotted fever will develop a rash. However, some patients might never develop a rash, and a person might have other symptoms before the rash develops.

These symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be severe or even deadly if not treated in the first few days of symptoms.

Ehrlichiosis is the general name used to describe several bacterial diseases that are spread to a person through the bite of an infected tick. In 2010, Oklahoma saw 107 cases of ehrlichiosis. It is not a subtle illness. People will look sick and are sick. Symptoms include high fever, chills, a terrible headache and fatigue within five to 10 days after a tick bite. The symptoms of ehrlichiosis are similar to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but a rash is not as common. Half of the people who contract ehrlichiosis are hospitalized.

Other tick-borne illnesses include Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, which is similar to Lyme disease, and Tularemia, which has symptoms similar to the flu and can progress into one of more of the seven different forms of tularemia.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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