Think you're safe just because you've never visited the Rocky Mountains?
The map of this life-threatening infection spreads like molten lava from its epicenter in Tennessee -- involving almost every state in the USA.* A single bite from an infected dog tick is enough to inoculate you with Rickettsia rickettsi -- a sneaky virus-like bacteria that uses your body's own cells as a sanctuary for reproduction. Ten days later you have shaking chills, vomiting, fever over 102 degrees and headache -- a deadly illness that is capable of killing a quarter of its victims within a week.
If you're lucky, you might be one of the 88% to get a characteristic rash -- flat red patches that start on the wrists and gradually involve the whole body. That clue might be enough to prompt your doctors to order the diagnostic test -- a Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever serology. However by the time they get the results, you could already be one of the 5% who die without treatment, so it's worth asking for a prescription for Doxycycline. It only costs a few bucks.
Fortunately, the great news is that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is easily cured and only kills about 1 out of 200 treated patients nowadays. On the other hand, since the year 2000, there has been a four-fold increase in infection. Enjoy your stay in Tennessee!
* Careful studies have show no direct connection to country-western music.