The Bean is currently writing her final school exams so our stress levels are a little high here in paradise. Last week she came to show me a spot on her leg where she had found a tick. We have been watching the bite site closely as a blue-black spot in the middle of the site is indicative of tick bite fever.
Today when I collected her from school after she wrote an exam she was walking with a slight limp and told me her leg muscles were a bit achy. I asked her to show me her bite and the tell-tale blue-black mark had appeared. We went directly to our local GP who said after an examination that her one lymph node was already inflamed and that it is almost guaranteed that she has tick bite fever albeit in the very early stages. He prescribed antibiotics and pain killers for her which we started right away.
I am so worried that this will affect her studies and exams as she is trying really hard for good marks to get into university. I hope that because we have caught it early we will be able to keep her symptoms to a minimum.
Here is a little more information on the disease for those of you who may be interested.
(summarised from an article on Health24.co.za)
Tick bite fever
Tick bite fever (rickettsia) is caused by a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. This condition occurs in many areas of the world and is often known by a variety of names (see table below).
The organism that causes tick bite fever belongs to the Rickettsial family of bacteria. As can be seen from the table, there are a number of different species of Rickettsias.
These organisms are relatively small and are only able to survive inside cells. They are found in certain wild and domestic animals, and ticks acquire the organisms when they feed on these animals.
When the tick bites a human, the bacterium is transmitted in the saliva.
In various parts of the world, different species of tick and Rickettsia are involved in causing tick-bite fever, and these forms of the disease are also given different names.
|Rocky Mountain spotted fever||R. ricketsii||USA|
|Boutonneuse||R. conorii||Africa, Meditteranean, India||Marseilles fever, Mediterranean spotted fever, African tick bite fever.|
|Queensland tick typhus||R.australis||Australia|
|North Asian tick typhus||R. sibirica||Siberia, Mongolia|
In South Africa, the cause of tick bite fever is either R. conorii , or R. africae.
The organisms are transmitted in the saliva of an infected tick when it bites humans. Being bitten by ticks usually occurs in rural or wilderness areas i.e. when you are out camping, hiking in long grass etc.
If you get bitten by an infected tick, the incubation period (the period between being infected and displaying symptoms) is about five to seven days. Symptoms can vary, depending partly on the organism involved. Your age and underlying health may also influence the severity of the infection.
Typical features may include the presence of a black mark where the bite occurred, and fever, severe headache and a rash. The black mark at the site of the tick bite is called an eschar . It may look something like a spider bite. The eschars can be single or multiple and can sometimes be very difficult to find. The eschar usually appears once the fever appears, as does the headache and malaise (general feeling of ill-health). Lymph nodes near the eschar may be enlarged.
A rash is usually, but not always, a feature of tick bite fever (it is supposedly less likely to occur in someone infected by R. africae), but when it is present, it consists of small red marks on the skin, sometimes raised slightly above the surface. It typically starts on the limbs and spreads to the trunk, and can involve the entire body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
African tick bite fever is usually mild, and death and serious complications are very uncommon. This is in contrast to Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which is usually a more severe illness.
The presence of the rash and an eschar is a very strong diagnostic sign for tick bite fever.
Some forms of tick bite fever are fairly mild and self-limiting – people may get better on their own without specific treatment. This can take up to two weeks however, and treatment with an antibiotic can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the chance of a serious side-effect.
The easiest may to prevent tick bite fever is to avoid being bitten by ticks. Avoiding rural or wilderness areas where ticks are likely to occur is one way to achieve this, but not a great solution if you enjoy hiking and camping. Other measures are generally common-sense, such as wearing insect repellents and long trousers and sleeves. There is no vaccine against tick bite fever, and taking prophylactic antibiotics (as one does for malaria) has never been shown to be effective or necessary.