CDC creates interactive training for diagnosis, management of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

May 15, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a first-of-its-kind education module to help clinicians recognize and diagnose Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), a sometimes serious and fatal disease spread by the bite of an infected tick.

“Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be deadly if not treated early—yet cases often go unrecognized because the signs and symptoms are similar to those of many other diseases,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “With tickborne diseases on the rise in the U.S., this training will better equip healthcare providers to identify, diagnose, and treat this potentially fatal disease.”

The module includes scenarios based on real cases to help healthcare providers recognize the early signs of RMSF and differentiate it from similar diseases. Continuing education credit is available for physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, veterinarians, nurses, epidemiologists, public health professionals, educators, and health communicators.

In 2017, a record number of cases of tickborne spotted fever rickettsiosis, including RMSF, were reported to the CDC. While the number of spotted fever cases in 2017 is striking (6,248 cases, up from 4,269 the previous year), fewer than 1 percent of those cases had sufficient laboratory evidence to be confirmed, pointing to the need to better train health care providers on the best methods to diagnose tickborne diseases.

RMSF is treatable with doxycycline, the antibiotic of choice in people of all ages. Disability and death from RMSF can be prevented when doxycycline is prescribed within the first five days of illness, meaning that early recognition and treatment can save lives. RMSF begins with non-specific symptoms such as fever and headache, and sometimes rash, but when left untreated, the disease can lead to devastating consequences. Severely ill patients may require amputation of fingers, toes, or limbs due to poor blood flow; heart and lung specialty care; and management in intensive care units. Roughly one in five untreated cases are fatal. Half of those deaths occur within the first eight days of illness.

CDC has more information