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Disease Directory

African Tick-Bite Fever

What is African tick-bite fever?
African tick-bite fever is a bacterial infection that is spread through the bite of infected ticks. Symptoms usually appear within 2 weeks after a tick bite and often include fever, headache, muscle soreness, and a rash. At the site of the tick bite will be a red skin sore with a dark center.

Who is at risk?
Travelers to sub-Saharan Africa and the West Indies are at risk of infection. You may be at higher risk for African tick-bite fever if your travel plans include outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and game hunting in wooded, brushy, or grassy areas. Ticks that are infected with tick-bite fever are usually most active from November through April.

What can travelers do to prevent African tick-bite fever?
There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents African tick-bite fever. Travelers can protect themselves by preventing tick bites.

Prevent tick bites:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
    – Tuck in shirts, tuck pants into socks, and wear closed shoes instead of sandals to prevent bites.
  • Avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass, brush, and leaves. Walk in the center of hiking trails.
  • Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours.
    – Products containing DEET include Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon.
  • Always follow product directions and reapply as directed.
    – If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
    – Follow package directions when applying repellent on childrenExternal Web Site Icon. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use permethrin-treatedExternal Web Site Icon clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
    – Treated clothing remains protective after multiple washings. See the product information to find out how long the protection will last.
    – If treating items yourself, follow the product instructions carefully.
    Do not use permethrin directly on skin.

Find and remove ticks from your body:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors.
  • Check your entire body (under your arms, in and around your ears, in your belly button, behind your knees, between your legs, around your waist, and especially in your hair). Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body.
    – Be sure to remove ticks properly.
    - Parents should check their children for ticks.
  • Check your pets and belongings. Ticks can be on outdoor equipment and clothes.