A grieving family in Indiana wants a little girl's death to raise awareness of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which, despite the name, has been found in almost every state and has killed people a long way from the Rocky Mountains. Doctors believe the tick-borne illness caused the death of 2-year-old Kenley Ratliff, who died in Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis on Saturday, just days after becoming ill, WTOL reports. She had a brain infection, swollen hands, and, in what the CDC says is one of the most common early symptoms of the illness in children, rashes all over her body.
Kenley went from healthy to dangerously ill in less than a week, family friend Monica Kirby tells WTHR. "Her little body couldn't handle it." Kirby says the toddler became ill after a family camping trip. "Strep throat is what she initially tested positive for," she says. "Then she goes home and gets a nearly 104-degree fever. And they just couldn't break it." Tests are expected to confirm within two weeks whether Kenley died from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Experts warn there could be more cases than usual this year because of a surge in the tick population caused by the warmer winter. Biologists say people should use a repellent containing DEET, taking care to spray their lower legs because ticks live in long grasses. (In Oregon, a toddler was temporarily paralyzed after a tick bite.)