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Colorado tick fever

Mountain tick fever; Mountain fever; American mountain fever

Colorado tick fever is a viral infection. It is spread by the bite of the Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni).

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Ticks
Tick imbedded in the skin
Antibodies
Deer ticks

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Causes

This disease is usually seen between March and September. Most cases occur in April, May, and June.

Colorado tick fever is seen most often in the western United States and Canada at elevations higher than 4,000 feet (1,219 meters). It is transmitted by a tick bite or, in very rare cases, by a blood transfusion.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Colorado tick fever most often start 1 to 14 days after the tick bite. A sudden fever continues for 3 days, goes away, then comes back 1 to 3 days later for another few days. Other symptoms include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will examine you and ask about your signs and symptoms. If the provider suspects you have the disease, you will also be asked about your outdoor activity.

Blood tests will usually be ordered. Antibody tests can be done to confirm the infection. Other blood tests may include:

Treatment

There are no specific treatments for this viral infection.

The provider will make sure the tick is fully removed from the skin.

You may be told to take a pain reliever if you need it. DO NOT give aspirin to a child who has the disease. Aspirin has been linked with Reye syndrome in children. It may also cause other problems in Colorado tick fever.

If complications develop, treatment will be aimed at controlling the symptoms.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Colorado tick fever usually goes away by itself and is not dangerous.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

Call your provider if you or your child develops symptoms of this disease, if symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment, or if new symptoms develop.


Prevention

When walking or hiking in tick-infested areas:

Wear light-colored clothing, which shows ticks more easily than darker colors. This makes them easier to remove.

Check yourself and your pets frequently. If you find ticks, remove them right away by using tweezers, pulling carefully and steadily. Insect repellent may be helpful.

Related Information

Acute
Fever
Insect bites and stings
Incidence
Encephalitis

References

Bolgiano EB, Sexton J. Tick-borne illnesses. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 126.

Dinulos JGH. Infestations and bites. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 15.

Naides SJ. Arboviruses causing fever and rash syndromes. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 358.

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Review Date: 12/24/2020  

Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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