Potentially deadly illness in our area

June 20, 2008 8:29:52 AM PDT
Cory Brelsford, 19, was mowing the grass along a trail behind his parents house in Elmer, New Jersey when he was bitten under his arm by a tick. He removed the tick and didn't think much of it until he got sick 10 days later. "My stomach started to hurt, I got a fever, I got really weak," he said, adding, "It got kind of tough to move after a while."His parents took him to an emergency care center where they said he was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, a potentially deadly disease spread by ticks.

"It's one of those things I always heard about but I didn't know you could pick it up in New Jersey," Cory's father George Brelsford said.

Experts at the Salem County Health Department say Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is rare for this area but not unheard of. And statistics show nationally the number of cases has tripled since 2001. One reason is urban sprawl

"We're building in areas that were basically tick-habitats that are now becoming human habitats," said Herb Roeschke, public health coordinator for both Salem and Cumberland County Health Departments.

So Roeschke says prevention is vital this summer. If you're in a tick-infested area, wear long pants and tuck them into your socks, use tick repellant, and then check your body for ticks.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever also comes with a splotchy rash that starts on the arms or legs and then moves inward. But the rash may be a late symptom. Brelsford noticed a splotchy rash after he was already sick a few days. He spent three days in the hospital on IV antibitiotics. He's better now but his parents want to remind others, if you develop any symptoms after a tick bite, see a doctor right away.

"The longer you go without treatment, obviously the more serious it becomes," George Brelsford said. Roeschke said about three- to five-percent of people who acquire Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, die from it.

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