Brown County campers react to rare tick-related illness causing death in western Wisconsin

Posted at 10:14 PM, Jul 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-11 23:14:12-04

A La Crosse woman is dead after a tick bite while camping left her infected with a rare disease.

State health officials say this is the first time that Rocky Mountain spotted fever has killed someone in Wisconsin.

That’s not stopping people from camping in the Town of Wrightstown. 

"I like it here because my grandson, he's really a fan here. The water's not too cold for him," said Jose Basulto, camper.  

But lurking in the tall grass could be a tiny killer.

"We had a woman in her late fifties who passed away from Rocky Mountain spotted fever," said Jo Foellmi, La Crosse County public health nurse.

RMSF is less common, compared to Lyme disease, but they're spread similarly, so campers need to beware.

"It’s kind of a little bit scary but they can be everywhere outdoors and we like being outside and it's kind of sad that there is that risk," said Tom Hemling, camper. 

If you are bitten, state health officials say you should watch the bite area for rashes and watch out for infection symptoms like unusual headaches or nausea. 

“It is an infection, however, that can be effectively treated with antibiotics as long as it's effectively treated early in disease so the recommendation is to ideally diagnose and begin treatment of a patient within five days," said Rebecca Osborn, Wisconsin Department of Health Services. 

Osborn says you should make a habit of checking yourself for ticks; if one latches on, you should pry it away slowly with tweezers.

Health officials say the best way to prevent illness is to not get bitten. You can do that by wearing long pants, long sleeves, using insect repellant and taking a shower when you get home.