Toddler Dies After Tick Bite

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A deadly tick bite may be to blame for a Central Indiana toddler going from perfectly healthy to seriously ill, in just a week. The two-year-old girl, Kenley Ratliff, from Plainfield has sadly died on Sunday.

Her family suspects that she was infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever after getting bitten by a tick.

She was the light of their life,” said a family friend Monica Kirby.

“Yes, within less than like five days,” Kirby said. “Her little body couldn’t handle it.”

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a rare, tick-borne illness that’s on the rise in Indiana.

The Indiana Department of Health reported 30 cases in 2015 and 40 in 2016. If it’s not treated right away with antibiotics, there is a high death rate associated with the disease.

Testing will confirm if that’s what killed Kenley and the family says that will take two weeks.

“It’s unimaginable. Words can’t express what they’re going through right now,” Kirby said.

The mourning family asked Kirby to speak on their behalf, to warn about the illness that seemingly, suddenly took their daughter.

The family say she’d gone camping recently and then the sickness started.

“Strep throat is what she initially tested positive for. Then she goes home and gets a nearly 104 degree fever. And they just couldn’t break it,” Kirby said. “They’re wanting to raise awareness for others, so this doesn’t happen to them.”

“I’ve gotten more phone calls this year about ticks than I have the last two or three years,” said Jim Erwin, biologist with the Marion County Health Department. “Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever could start with a fever. It could be a rash. There are other flu-like symptoms associated with it. It can be very dangerous, for sure.”

Experts say that this could be an especially dangerous year for ticks in Indiana and across the Midwest.

A warmer winter likely had an impact on the tick population, which can carry Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

They warn that families, especially children, need to take precautions when outdoors.

“You’d use a product with DEET in it. It would be a repellent. You’d want to make sure you spray your pant leg, down low, because that’s where the ticks are. They’re going to be in the grasses, especially higher grasses, maybe knee-high,” Erwin explained.

For proper protection, he says the spray should contain 20 to 30 percent DEET.

He also says that you should treat your yard, to act as a barrier between your home and wooded or high-grass areas.

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