Navajo Nation Council urges federal help with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

rocky-mountain-spotted-feverThe Navajo Nation Council will meet today to pass legislation that will “urge the Arizona Federal Congressional Delegation and Arizona Senators and Representatives to Recognize and Acknowledge the Serious Threat that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Poses to Public Health on the Navajo Nation. The Nation’s representatives hope to secure funding to implement a “Comprehensive Navajo RMSF Prevention and Control Program.”

According to the CDC: Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a tickborne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. This organism is a cause of potentially fatal human illness in North and South America, and is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected tick species. In the United States, these include the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).

Typical symptoms include: fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain. A rash may also develop, but is often absent in the first few days, and in some patients, never develops. Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be a severe or even fatal illness if not treated in the first few days of symptoms. Doxycycline is the first line treatment for adults and children of all ages, and is most effective if started before the fifth day of symptoms. The initial diagnosis is made based on clinical signs and symptoms, and medical history, and can later be confirmed by using specialized laboratory tests. RMSF and other tickborne diseases can be prevented.

Although RMSF cases have been reported throughout most of the contiguous United States, five states (North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri) account for over 60% of RMSF cases.

Between 2003 and 2010, roughly 140 cases had been reported, and approximately 10% of the people diagnosed with the disease in this part of the state have died. The tick responsible for transmission of R. rickettii in Arizona is the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), which is found on dogs and around people’s homes. Almost all of the cases occurred within communities with a large number of free-roaming dogs.

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