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Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases rising in Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - This story might tick you off. The number of cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in Alabama nearly doubled from 2015 to 2016.

Since Memorial Day right around the corner and many people are preparing to get outside, the Alabama Department of Public Health wants to warn people to be on the lookout for ticks.

Most kids don't get to play with goats every day at school. But at the Country Day School in Huntsville being outdoors is part of the curriculum, and part of that is being safe.

"We're always thinking what can we do to ensure that our kids learn, but at the same time they are safe and don't get injured," explained Charles Austin, a middle school teacher at Country Day School.

That means this time of year, it's time to talk about ticks.

"Wear your bug spray, where your long protective clothing, and check each other. When you're outside, rolling around in the grass playing around having a good time, check," Austin said.

Dr. Suzanne Rastorfer, Pediatric Hospitalist at the Huntsville Hospital says people don't need to be hiking in the woods or in tall grass to be bitten.

"If you're outside even gardening in the yard, at the playground, you can get a tick bite and not even know it."

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is the most prevalent tick-borne illness in Alabama. From 2015 to 2016 cases of the disease nearly rose significantly from 288 to 453.

Symptoms range from "fever, and malaise, and headaches and if not caught early it can even cause death. If you feel that way and you've been outside and it's summertime in the South, you really want to go see the doctor."

The disease has a mortality rate of about 10 percent. "It's still a really high number because so many people aren't diagnosed until it's too late," Dr. Rostorfer said,

That's why education is so important.

"Both parents and teachers, if we teach our kids to do the right thing, then we don't have to worry about them," Austin said.

People often do not realize they have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever until 2 - 10 days after a tick bite.