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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

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If you have an unexplained fever that follows a known tick bite, that is a good indicator to see your healthcare provider and get a test for Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) or other tickborne diseases.

The first symptoms of RMSF may include

  • Moderate to high fever, which can persist for two to three weeks if the infection is untreated
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe headache
  • Deep muscle pain
  • Significant tiredness
  • Chills
  • Lack of appetite

You usually will see a rash two to five days after the fever begins. The red-spotted rash often starts as small, flat, pink, non-itchy spots on your wrists, forearms, and ankles. These spots turn pale when you apply pressure. They eventually become raised on your skin. In the late stages of the illness, skin tissue begins to die and turn black—thus the original local name “black measles.” A few people with RMSF never develop a rash.

Some people develop more symptoms later in the disease, including rash on the palms of their hands or soles of their feet, abdominal pain, joint pain, and diarrhea.

Last Updated January 28, 2011

Last Reviewed January 28, 2011