Recently, there has been a noteworthy development concerning traveler's health. On December 08, 2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an alert regarding an outbreak of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in Mexico, particularly impacting visitors traveling to the United States from Tecate, in Baja California. This article aims to educate travelers about RMSF, its risks, and prevention strategies.
What is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever?
RMSF is a potentially deadly bacterial disease transmitted through the bite of an infected tick, specifically the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). This disease is of particular concern in parts of the southwestern United States and Mexico.
Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms of RMSF include fever, headache, and a distinctive rash, which usually appears 2–4 days after the onset of symptoms. However, it's crucial to note that some patients may never develop a rash. The disease can progress rapidly and become fatal if not treated promptly with the appropriate antibiotic. Doxycycline is the recommended treatment for RMSF in both adults and children of all ages.
RMSF has been reported in urban areas of several northern Mexican states, including Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo León. Travelers visiting these areas should be particularly cautious.
Transmission and Prevention
Ticks, which can thrive in areas where dogs are present, spread the bacteria causing RMSF. These ticks can be found near homes and in yards, posing a risk not just to pets but to humans as well. To protect yourself, consider the following measures:
- Use insect repellants on exposed skin and clothing.
- Perform daily checks for ticks on your body, your child’s body, and clothing when traveling to affected areas. Promptly remove any ticks found.
- Be aware that tick bites can be tiny and painless, making them easy to overlook.
- If traveling with a dog, use tick-preventatives and consult your vet for advice.
The Importance of Prompt Medical Attention
RMSF can be lethal, particularly in children under 10 years old, who are five times more likely to die from the disease compared to adults. If you or a family member travels to Tecate or other northern Mexican cities and develops symptoms either during the trip or within two weeks of returning to the United States, seek medical attention immediately.
Awareness and preventative measures are key when traveling to areas with known RMSF outbreaks. By taking the necessary precautions and staying informed, travelers can significantly reduce their risk of contracting this serious disease. Stay safe and enjoy your travels!