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Glendale school studying Arizona spike in tick-borne disease

(Public Domain Photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Students at a veterinary college in a Phoenix suburb were studying ticks found on dogs in rural Arizona in hopes of figuring out why more people are being infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

“The case fatality rate [from this disease], in the state of Arizona, is significantly higher than it is in the rest of the country,” Nellie Goetz, a professor at the Medicine at Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine, said.

Goetz said the disease typically affects children.

“[Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever] affects children the most,” she said. “The largest number of deaths that have occurred in humans from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever has been in children,” she said.

However, adults, such as former Arizona Coyotes captain Shane Doan, have also been infected.

Goetz said the uptick in Arizona cases began in 2003. Her students were testing ticks brought into the Arizona Animal Welfare League’s shelter in Phoenix to pinpoint locations where the bacteria originates.

Protecting yourself, your family and animals from ticks is the best defense, Goetz said.

“Consult with your veterinarian about what tick product to use,” she said. “Whenever you’re outside – whether it’s around your dog or not around your dog – you want to make sure you check yourself for ticks. Especially in the spring, summer and fall, the ticks like to come out in the summer because it’s monsoon season.

“If you get a tick bite, let your primary physician know.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, the disease is most commonly found in the southeastern part of the United States. Cases have also been reported in Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America.

Symptoms include severe headache and a high fever. A rash typically develops on the wrists and ankles a few days later.

Complications of the disease include damaged lining of the body’s smallest blood vessels, causing leaks or clots. Many of these are in the fingers and toes.

If these vessels do not work properly, tissue on the fingers and toes could develop gangrene, which requires amputation. The disease can cause serious damage to internal organs and the death rate for untreated cases is nearly 75 percent.

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