How a Tick Bite Left This Woman a Quadruple Amputee

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(Photo: From Jo Roger’s GoFundMe page)

An Oklahoma mother of two has lost all four of her limbs after contracting Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Doctors amputated Jo Rogers’ arms and legs in an attempt to save her life after she was bitten by a tick, Oklahoma City’s KOCO reports.

Rogers came down with flu-like symptoms four days after returning home from a vacation and was hospitalized the next day.

“She was shaking her hands because they hurt, her feet hurt,” Rogers’ cousin Lisa Morgan told KOCO. Doctors tested Rogers for West Nile Virus and for meningitis, but both tests came back negative. On the sixth day, they said her organs were shutting down.

“By Saturday morning, her arms and feet were turning dark blue and black,” Morgan said. “It was crawling up her limbs.”

It was only then that doctors found a tick bite that had previously gone unnoticed, and diagnosed Rogers with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Doctors amputated her legs below the knees and arms below the elbows to try to keep the disease from spreading to her vital organs, where it could have killed her.

Rogers is expected to make a recovery but, according to a GoFundMe page for her, she is still on a ventilator and is under sedation to help with the pain.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is an illness caused by a tick infected with the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsia. In the United States, that includes the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni), and the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus). It affects approximately 2,000 people in the U.S. each year, but is rarely fatal, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

(Photo: Getty Images)

While Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases have been reported throughout most of the U.S., more than 60 percent of cases originate in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Missouri — and they often occur in June and July.

Unfortunately, its symptoms are very non-specific. “People may brush it off as a summertime flu, with vomiting, fever, and headache,” Paul G. Auwaerter, MD, clinical director for the division of infectious disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Health.

However, he says, a rash that shows up on a person’s arms and legs (and not directly related to the bite site like Lyme Disease) is usually a major sign that this isn’t the flu.

But not everyone gets the rash or gets it right away, infectious disease expert Tom Russo, MD, professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, tells Yahoo Health, further complicating experts’ ability to identify the disease in some cases.

Related: Ticks Are Early, Abundant, And Urban This Year: How To Protect Yourself And Your Kids

If left untreated, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can progress quickly, causing vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels that can lead to organ and tissue damage.

That’s why early detection and treatment is so crucial. According to Auwaerter, it’s important to get on antibiotics (specifically Doxycycline) within five days of being infected, which is typically when complications start to get more serious.

Some patients have severe complications, but the “vast majority” recover completely after a seven-day course of antibiotics and are fine in the long-term, infectious disease expert Steve C. Buckingham, M.D., an assistant professor at The University of Tennessee, tells Yahoo Health.

And, while Rogers’ story is terrifying, Buckingham says cases like hers are “extremely rare.”

Related: Bit by a Tick? What You Need to Know (and the Diseases to Look Out for)

People who spend time outdoors, especially in the woods or mountains, are most at risk. It’s important to check yourself for ticks after you’ve been outside — even if you’re just gardening, William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Health.

He recommends inspecting your whole body, particularly your armpits, around your waist, and your groin area, which is where ticks like to set up camp. If you spot one, take a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick firmly where it’s attached to your skin and pull it out gently (jerking it out can leave its head embedded in your skin).

If the tick is carrying Rickettsia rickettsia, it typically infects you later on, which is why it’s so important to remove it ASAP, Schaffner says.

If you suspect that you have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, experts say you should head to the emergency room right away.

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