Tick-Borne Spotted Fevers

Tick-borne spotted fevers are diseases caused by a rickettsial organism transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis, and frequently by other tick species.

Tick-Borne Diseases Reports & Data

Instructions For Tick Removal

Disease Fact Sheet

Disease Facts

In the eastern United States, children are infected most frequently, while in the western United States, disease incidence is highest among adult males. Disease incidence is directly related to the exposure to tick-infested habitats or to infested pets.

Tick-borne spotted fever is spread by the bite of an infected tick (the American dog tick, the lone-star tick or the wood tick), or by contamination of the skin with tick blood or feces. Person to person spread of tick-borne spotted fevers does not occur.

Tick-borne spotted fevers are characterized by a sudden onset of moderate to high fever (which can last for two or three weeks), severe headache, fatigue, deep muscle pain, chills and rash. The rash begins on the legs or arms, may include the soles of the feet or palms of the hands and may spread rapidly to the trunk or rest of the body.

Symptoms usually appear within two weeks of the bite of an infected tick.

One attack probably provides permanent immunity.

Certain antibiotics such as tetracycline or chlorampherical may be effective in treating the disease.

Frequent checking of clothing and skin when in infested areas is extremely useful in reducing potential incidence of disease. Tick repellents applied to legs and clothing may be helpful to prevent tick attachment.

Due to the nature of American dog ticks, local populations may be effectively controlled with applications of pesticides to vegetation along trails; mowing grass frequently in yard and outside fences also helps to reduce tick populations.

  • To remove an attached tick, grasp with tweezers or forceps as close as possible to attachment (skin) site
  • Pull upward and out with a firm and steady pressure.
  • If tweezers are not available, use fingers shielded with tissue paper or rubber gloves.
  • Do not handle with bare hands.
  • Be careful not to squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick which may contain infectious fluids.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands.
  • See or call a physician if there is concern about incomplete tick removal.
  • It is important that a tick be removed as soon as it is discovered.
  • Check after every two or three hours of outdoor activity for ticks attached to clothing or skin.
  • If removal occurs within three hours after attachment, the risk of tick-borne infection is reduced.

Instructions For Tick Removal


This material is provided by the South Dakota Department of Health for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical care. We are not able to answer personal medical questions. Please see your health care provider concerning appropriate care, treatment, or other medical advice.

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