The Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) epidemic which hit several Native American tribes across two reservations in Arizona incurred over $13 million in societal costs over the course of nine years, according to the findings of a recently published study in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
The total accounts for treatment costs, time off work and the loss of lifetime productivity as a result of early death, however, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Indian Health Services and the affected tribes indicated that the study’s cost estimate is likely lower than the actual cost of the epidemic as it fails to account for long-term losses as a result of disability and expensive medical procedures.
The average Rocky Mountain spotted fever induced death, which children account for more than half of, costs over $775,000.
According to the study’s authors, children account for more than half of the deaths caused by what CDC epidemiologist Naomi Drexler, one of the study’s authors, referred to as a “completely preventable” disease in an agency news release, Philly.com reported.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is completely preventable (…) State, federal and tribal health authorities have been working together since the start of the epidemic to build effective community-based tick control programs, and these efforts have produced remarkable reductions in human cases (…) These programs are costly, but medical expenses and lives lost cost four times more than Rocky Mountain spotted fever prevention efforts. Increasing access to these prevention efforts is critical to save lives and protect communities.
While there is no vaccine for the disease, prevention measures including tick collars on pets and the treatment of homes and lawns have proven effective. According to the study’s findings, such prevention methods coupled with early treatment of infections could save millions of dollars by avoiding premature death and disability.
Researchers with the CDC and the Indian Health Service, those behind the study, reviewed 205 medical records between 2002 and 2011 which focused on the two Native American tribes at the center of the epidemic and found that 80 percent of RMSF cases require emergency care, UPI reported.
The study also found that seven percent of the cases were fatal.
In other news, a deadly new tick borne illness known as the “Bourbon Virus” was reported last year.