Tick Bite May Have Caused 2-Year-Old Indiana Girl's Death, Family Says

The CDC reports Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be fatal if not treated in the first few days of symptoms

A tick bite may have led to the death of a young Indiana girl who fell dangerously ill in a matter of days last week, family members said.

WTHR reports that 2-year-old Kenley Ratliff, of Plainfield, died Sunday after her family suspected she was infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted fever following a tick bite during a camping trip.

Family members said it took only one week for Kenley’s health to deteriorate.

“Within less than like five days,” family friend Monica Kirby, who was asked to speak on the grieving family’s behalf, told WTHR. “Her little body couldn’t handle it.”

First, Kenley tested positive for strep throat. But the young girl’s fever continued to climb to nearly 104 degrees.

“They just couldn’t break it,” Kirby told the news outlet.

Kenley died at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis Sunday.

The family had said physicians suspected Kenley was suffering from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, but confirmation from testing could take up to two weeks to complete.

The CDC reports Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can be fatal if not treated in the first few days of symptoms.

Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomitting and muscle pain. In many cases, a rash may also develop, but that can take days to appear, if at all, health officials said.

“The progression of the disease varies greatly,” according to the CDC’s website. “Patients who are treated early may recover quickly on outpatient medication, while those who experience a more severe course may require intravenous antibiotics, prolonged hospitalization or intensive care.”

Health officials note that in children, symptoms including a cough, sore throat and diarrhea may be seen, which “can lead to misdiagnosis.”

Kenley’s death comes amid numerous alerts from health departments across the Midwest warning of tickborne illnesses, particularly as warm weather approaches.

The Illinois Department of Public Health warned residents Wednesday about a rise in ticks across the area.

“A bite from a tick can cause anywhere from mild to severe illness, and even death in some cases, so it is important to protect yourself against bites,” Director Nirav D. Shah said in a statement.

The DuPage County Health Department sent out a similar alert. 

Health officials recommend the following tips for avoiding tick bites:

• Wear light-colored, protective clothing—long-sleeved shirts, pants, boots or sturdy shoes, and a head covering. Treat clothing with products containing 0.5 percent permethrin.

• Apply insect repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection that lasts several hours.

• Walk in the center of trails so grass, shrubs, and weeds do not brush against you.

• Check yourself, children, other family members, and pets for ticks every two to three hours.

• Remove any tick promptly by grasping it with tweezers, as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pulling it straight out. Wash your hands and the tick bite site with soap and water.

For information on how to remove a tick if you find one attached to your skin, click here.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Kenley’s family cover medical costs and funeral arrangements. As of Wednesday, more than $5,100 had been raised.

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