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How to prevent it, spot it  & treat it 

African Tick Bite Fever is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks and there is no vaccine or medicine that prevents it. The good news is that Tick Bite Fever is not generally dangerous. It is however unpleasant so we advise you to take precautions to avoid it – you don’t want an illness when you return home to take the shine off your memories of your trip to Africa.

We have compiled this article to help you

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Tick bite fever is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. In South Africa, the cause of tick bite fever is either R. conorii or R. africae. These organisms are transmitted in the saliva of an infected tick when it bites humans or if the tick is crushed on your skin, the rickettsias may be able to enter through a small abrasion.

The ticks that are able to harbour the organism belong to either

• The Amblyomma tick which actively seek out humans to feed on,

• Rhipicephalus tick which tends to lie in wait on grass and will bite you if you walk past.

The good news is that African tick bite fever is usually mild, and death and serious complications are very uncommon.


There is no vaccine or medicine that prevents African tick-bite fever. The best method of protection is to avoid getting bitten

  • Wear long-sleeved, tucked-in shirts, long pants tucked into socks, closed shoes, and hats to reduce exposure of skin to ticks

  • Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours and follow product directions. Apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second. Follow package directions when applying repellent on children. Avoid applying repellent to their hands, eyes, and mouth.

  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear - either buy it pre-treated or treat them yourself.

Do a tick bite check every day: 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). Remember to also check your outdoor equipment and clothes.

If you find a tick – do NOT panic

Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach. The best tool for the job is a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers.


1. grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. If the mouth-parts break off remove them with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

4. Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.


The symptoms will usually emerge about five to seven days after being bitten and include:

• a small ulcer (2-5mm in diameter) with a black centre a black mark (eschar) where the bite occurred

• Fever, severe headache, general feeling of ill health and sometimes a rash.


If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and explain where you have been. Unfortunately, the eschar is not always visible, so the absence of an eschar shouldn’t lull you into a false sense of security Tick bite fever can be treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline. If you are not able to take doxcycline, chloramphenicol, or sometimes ciprofloxacin, may be used instead.



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