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2-year-old who died had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

2-year-old who died had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Posted at 1:02 PM, Jun 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 12:19:10-04

PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Two-year-old Kenley Ratliff had Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever before she died earlier this month.

Kenley's aunt, Jordan Clapp, says the Plainfield toddler also tested positive for strep throat and a bacterial infection. 

It started as a high fever. Doctors told Kenley's parents that she likely had a virus - perhaps strep throat - but antibiotics just weren't helping. 

On day five, the fever hadn't passed, and Kenley went limp. Her mother rushed her to Riley Hospital for Children. 

"At Riley, she closed her eyes and she never opened them again," said Clapp. 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a rare, tick-borne illness that’s on the rise in Indiana. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. Many people who suffer from RMSF also develop a rash.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick species. 

"We don't want any family to go through what we did," said Clapp. "It just happened so fast and we couldn't do anything about it. She was just laying there in the hospital living off of a breathing tube and we couldn't do a thing for her."

The Indiana Department of Health says 40 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever were reported in 2016 and 30 cases were reported in 2015. Because of the warm winter, experts are warning Hoosiers that this year could be an especially bad year for ticks. 

A formal autopsy has not yet determined official cause of death.

RELATED | Experts warn of deadly tick-borne disease on the rise in the Great Lakes region