Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Steven Doerr, MD
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

Quick GuideRocky Mountain Spotted Fever: See Photos of the Rash

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: See Photos of the Rash

What is the treatment for Rocky Mountain spotted fever?

Antibiotics are the treatment for RMSF. Doxycycline is the antibiotic of choice in children and adults suspected of having RMSF. Antibiotic treatment is most effective if started within the first five days of symptom onset, so prompt treatment with antibiotics should be initiated in any individual suspected of having RMSF, even before confirmatory laboratory testing results are available. The early initiation of antibiotics decreases the mortality rate of RMSF from 20% to less than 1%. For individuals who are allergic to doxycycline, and in some pregnant patients, chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin, Econochlor, Ocu-Chlor) is an alternative antibiotic that can be used. Although the disease responds well to treatment, it can become life-threatening if not treated promptly.

Though certain patients with mild symptoms and signs suspected of having RMSF can be treated as outpatients with antibiotics and close follow-up, other patients with suspected RMSF will require admission to the hospital for close monitoring and further evaluation.

What is the prognosis of Rocky Mountain spotted fever?

If diagnosed early and treated promptly, RMSF has a very good prognosis. Most patients will fully recover without any long-term disabilities. However, a delay in diagnosis and treatment is contributory to the higher rates of complications and mortality seen with RMSF. In the United States, the mortality rate for RMSF is currently less than 1%. In the preantibiotic era, the mortality rate was around 30%.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/28/2016

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