Health Alert: U.S. Embassy, San Jose

Location: Countrywide 

Event: During the last six weeks, three adults have had fatal infections with Rickettsiosis rickettsii disease in areas just east and south of San Jose in Cartago and Aserri.  Rickettsiosis rickettsii, also called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), is transmitted by ticks.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that severe illness is rare, and most people recover completely.  RMSF is a bacterial disease spread through the bite of an infected tick. Most people who get sick with RMSF will have a fever, headache, and rash. RMSF can be deadly if not treated early with the right antibiotic (click here for more information from the CDC).  Further, Rickettsiosis rickettsii can kill the tick itself, and as a result, as few as 1 in 1000 of the carrier ticks are infected (National Institute of Science study here).

Actions to Take:

–         Travelers should try to prevent tick bites:

  • Keep your pets’ tick protection treatment up-to-date and check them regularly for ticks.
  • Avoid walking in high grass and wooded areas with uncovered legs.
  • Inspect your body, clothing, and equipment for ticks after spending time outdoors or with animals.
  • DEET is an effective tick repellent.  The EPA suggests that any product with DEET should have a concentration between 20 and 30 percent of the active ingredient.  DEET only remains effective against ticks for about 8 hours and can not also be combined with lotion or sunscreen as the efficacy decreases significantly.  Picaridin 20% and permethrin-treated clothing can also be used.


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