Few people have likely heard of tickborne relapsing fever.
Once they do, most will likely hope that they never get it.
Tickborne relapsing fever, like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and ehrlichiosis, is a bacterial infection that is transmitted by a tick bite. Symptoms of tickborne relapsing fever can include one to four recurring episodes of three day intervals of fever (which can get up to 106.7°F by the end of the episode), joint aches, muscle pain, headache, and nausea. The affected person is then free of symptoms for up to seven days before they have another symptomatic episode or "crisis."
Cases most commonly occur in the summer months in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming after a brief and painless tick bite.
The CDC issued a report today about a young woman and her newborn child in Colorado with tickborne relapsing fever. She had a one week history of fever, nausea, headache, stiff neck, and occasional blurred vision and had just delivered a baby in a mountain cabin on the day before going to the emergency room.
The baby developed a fever when she was about six days old and she was diagnosed with tickborne relapsing fever as doctors noticed spirochetes, the bacteria that cause TBRF, as they looked at her blood smear, likely to evaluate why she had low platelet counts. The mother was subsequently diagnosed with tickborne relapsing fever as well and they were both treated with antibiotics.
The case is a good reminder to consider tickborne relapsing fever if a patient has unexplained or recurrent fever and have traveled to an area where TBRF is common. It is also a good reminder to avoid sleeping in rodent-infested buildings and to prevent tick bites by using insect repellents with DEET.