Wichita Man Recovering From Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer is when most people take advantage of the warm or hot weather and spend their days outdoors. It's also when ticks are at their most active and the number of tick borne diseases are at their highest.

Reports from just the last few years show around 3,000 people come down with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever every year. Doctors say the disease is treatable but if caught too late. It can cause serious complications for patients.

These days, Chris Freshour's physical therapy sessions are all about improving balance and sometimes blowing off steam.

"It's a fun workout to be able to take out a little frustration,” Freshour said.

Freshour's frustrations began about seven weeks ago after he came home from a hunting trip and came down with a fever.

"I kind of had a headache and just didn't feel very good,” Freshour said.

He says went to several doctors and was told he had the flu and pneumonia by two different physicians, but his fever only got worse. He says he never thought to bring up his recent hunting trip because he never actually found a tick on him and didn't feel the bite.

Chris' wife Becky says one morning he woke up confused and incoherent.

“I was able to manage to get him in the car but it was really scary. I had never seen anybody that sick before that they couldn't talk right,” Becky Freshour said.

Chris spent the next month in the hospital. He says he doesn't remember the first three weeks.

"He would have periods where he was awake but his eyes were glassy staring off into space,” Becky Freshour said.

When Chris finally came to, Becky says she told him what doctor's believed he had. She says they suspected it as soon as he was admitted because he had developed a rash and had recently been in the woods. She said it took weeks for the test results to come back and confirm the diagnosis.

“When I told him in the hospital for the first time that he had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite he could not believe it - he just could not believe it,” Becky Freshour said.

Doctors say the disease is not contagious and can only be caught if you're bitten by an infected tick.

“If you look at how many people will be bitten by ticks - lots of people will be bitten by ticks - especially if you're outdoors person in tall grass, wooded areas things like that, but the number of people who get bitten by ticks and go on to have the disease is pretty rare,” Dr. Gretchen Dickson, Assistant Professor at KU School of Medicine- Wichita, said.

Freshour says once he's done with physical therapy, he's looking forward to exercising outside again, although he says he might save hunting for the winter, when ticks are a little less active.

Doctors say if you're going to be outside, especially in the woods, try to stay away from tall grass or walk in the center of the trail in the woods. Also, use insect repellent with at least 20 percent DEET and wear long pants, socks and long sleeves.

If you know you've been bitten by a tick, remove the tick as soon as possible and call your doctor if you feel sick.

If you feel sick and you don't know if it's from a tick, just talk with your doctor and let them know about any time you've spent outdoors or any trips you've taken.

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