Trouble in paradise….

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.  

Male tick size comparison to a match.

Image via Wikipedia

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

What is 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).

What causes tick bite fever?

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.

Infection Organism Location Other 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.

How do you get tick bite fever?

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. 

Symptoms and signs of tick bite fever

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.

What is the outcome of tick bite fever?

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. 

How is tick bite fever treated?

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. 

Can tick bite fever be prevented?

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.


9 thoughts on “Trouble in paradise….

  1. Oh dear! I have fingers crossed for a speedy recovery. I’m wondering if there’s a local herbal treatment also? Ticks are one creature I have difficulty in dealing with….ugh! Had to remove kangaroo ticks from a dog in the past….funny how some things make your skin crawl!
    May the Bean be completely successful in her exams♥

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    • I would love to hear about any local herbal treatments too! When we got Cleo she was covered in ticks which I had to remove. Thankfully she does not get them now due to her tick collar she wears. I think I should get the Bean a tick collar🙂

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  2. In Sweden (and parts of eastern Europe) we have tick-borne encephalitis. The whole family just got our first vaccination, since we moved back from France in august.
    I hope your daughter will get good marks even with the infection in her body.

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  3. I was wondering if there was an effective deterrent against ticks (spray, etc). Was bitten this last weekend, so your posting and information is very appropriate – thanks. Now I know what to look out for…

    Hope the Bean is back to her normal self soon.

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  4. I’ve had tick-bite fever. I found the little swine between my toes and 3 days later the blue bulls eye appeared. I did get the treatment and I felt like I had a very bad cold for a few days (sans snotty nose etc.). My advice would be to get something to help with the fever and the achy-ness and to sleep/rest as much as possible.

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery and Good luck for her exams!

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    • Thanks Tara🙂 – I had tick bite fever as a child and remember the feeling well too. The meds seem to be doing their trick for now and she got quite a bit of studying done today as well as a good sleep.

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      • Glad that the meds seem to be helping, tho I am sorry she got sick. Tell her good luck on the exams. (And BTW, she looked gorgeous in the prom pics.)

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  5. Hi, I hope your daughter got through the exams without feeling too bad! Our niece has just been diagnosed with the same after a 10 day holiday here in NW Province. She is bac home in the UK, poor girl

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