In Indianapolis, two-year-old Kenley Ratliff has passed away from what is suspected to be Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), a tick-borne illness. The young girl fell ill with a fever, and just a week later, passed away. Now her family and doctors are looking into the cause of her death and warning others to check themselves for ticks this summer.
RMSF is a disease found in North and South America spread by ticks. Simply getting bitten by an infected tick is enough to acquire the potentially fatal illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), RMSF causes fever, headache, vomiting, and potentially a rash. It's treated with the antibiotic Doxycycline, although it's not as effective after the first five days of symptoms. If not treated in the first few days after it appears, the illness can be fatal.
According to Ratliff's aunt, the toddler's illness began with a fever of 100.8 degrees. She was then hospitalized, at which point the hospital advised she rest and stay well-hydrated. However, her fever only increased, so she was later hospitalized again and treated with antibiotics. The child later tested positive for strep throat, so doctors gave her more antibiotics.
By then, she had become incredibly weak, and pale pink rashes appeared on her body. Once those rashes darkened, doctors began to suspect that the toddler had RMSF. Unfortunately, she had already taken so many antibiotics that doctors could not yet give her the proper antibiotics to treat the illness. Her brain had swelled from having a fever so long, and the two-year-old passed away.
An autopsy is being performed to confirm for sure if the toddler had the illness. Jordan Clapp — Ratliff's aunt — told CNN that the family is committed to informing others of RMSF.
Now that Kenley has passed away, obviously, we can't do anything. But if we can save other children's lives, and if we can educate other parents on checking for ticks, and if we can raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, because we had no idea. So if they have read Kenley's story, this will now be on the back of their minds. And they'll know, and they'll understand.
Ticks are most abundant in the summer, so it is crucial that you check yourself for ticks. The specific tick that causes RMSF is frequently found on dogs, but other ticks can still make you sick with illnesses like Lyme Disease and Powassan virus. To check yourself for ticks, the CDC advises you wash your clothes and conduct full-body — including hair — examinations immediately after venturing into tick-infested areas.