For the last nine year an epidemic caused by a tick infection has been affecting two reservations in Arizona with Native American tribes. The epidemic of RMSF (Rocky Mountain spotted fever) is caused by Ricksettia rickettsii, a bacterium which can be transmitted through ticks. The infection can also be transmitted through the brown dog tick which is found in domesticated animals such as dogs and cats which were not treated.
Those who suffer from Rocky Mountain spotted fever show symptoms such as rash, headache, diarrhea and vomiting. Sometimes the rash is so severe that some patients need to have their limbs, fingers or toes amputated because of the blood loss. Some patients require special care for their heart and lungs and some even end up in intensive care units. When a patient starts showing the symptoms it takes an average of eight days before they die.
There is no vaccine for this disease, but if the disease is treated early enough the antibiotic doxycycline is effective. Another measure which can prevent this disease from spreading is placing tick collars on pets and treating the lawns.
CDC (the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has conducted a study and discovered that more than $13 million have been spent on the epidemic of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The societal cost includes the amount of money used for treating the disease, the loss of lifetime productivity caused by early mortality and the time taken off work. More detail about the study can be found in in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
Researchers say that the tick infection has been a problem for Native Americans in Arizona only. Scientists from the Indian Health Service in collaboration with researchers from CDC have analyzed 205 cases of tick infection which occurred between 2002 and 2011. More than 80 percent of the patients ended up visiting the emergency room. 14 percent of them were in critical condition and required admission to the intensive care unit and 7 percent of the patient died because of the tick infection.
The average cost for every death caused by Rocky Mountain spotted fever was $775,467. This represents five times the cost required in the case of deaths caused by pneumococcal disease, which is $140,862. With more than 300 cases of tick infection and 20 deaths caused by it, there is no surprise that the economic losses amounted to $13.2 million.
CDC epidemiologist, Naomi Drexler, said that authorities have worked hard to develop control programs. They might be costly, but the lives cost and the medical expenses are four times more than the prevention efforts.
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