Introduction: Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a bacterial disease associated with morbidity and mortality when untreated. The primary study objectives are to describe clinician diagnostic and treatment practices in a nonendemic area after the occurrence of an unrecognized severe pediatric presumed RMSF case (index case). We hypothesized that inpatient diagnostic testing frequency and initiation of empiric treatment will increase after the index case. Methods: We performed a retrospective chart review of patients aged less than 18 y evaluated for RMSF at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital between 2010 and 2019. We divided the study population into 2 groups (preindex and postindex) and evaluated patient characteristics, RMSF testing completion, and timing of doxycycline administration. Results: Fifty-four patients (14 [26%] preindex and 40 [74%] postindex) were included. Age (median [25th percentile, 75th percentile]) decreased from 14.5 y (8.6, 16) preindex to 8.3 y (3.6, 14) postindex. Twelve (86%) preindex and 31 (78%) postindex patients received empiric doxycycline (P=0.70). Four years after the index case, a decrease in empiric and urgent initiation of doxycycline administration was noted. One case of severe RMSF was diagnosed 4 y after the index case. Conclusions: Our study found that inpatient RMSF testing increased after the index case, but not all patients received empiric treatment. This may represent an underappreciation of RMSF severity even after a recent devastating case. We suggest that when severe rare but possibly reversible diseases, such as RMSF occur, all clinicians are educated on the diagnostic and treatment approach to reduce the morbidity and mortality risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-432
Number of pages6
JournalWilderness and Environmental Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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