Tick bite leads to amputation of woman’s limbs

Posted at 11:31 PM, Aug 14, 2015

A tick bite led to amputations on all four of an Oklahoma woman's limbs. Doctors did it to save Jo Rogers' life from the aggressive bacteria the arachnid passed on.

It's the worst case of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever they'd seen, Roger's cousin Lisa Morgan told CNN affiliate KOCO.

Rogers fought for her life on a ventilator in a medically induced coma. Her family is now focusing her attention on getting through this.

"You're going to get to watch your boys grow up," her cousin Lisa Morgan tells her. Rogers, 40, has two sons, ages 12 and 17.

The intensity of Rogers' case may be rare, but infections unfortunately are not.

Few people die from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever anymore, since it can be treated with antibiotics. But treatment should start in the first five days of infection. Rogers appears to have missed that time frame.

Where she got it

A carrier tick may have dropped onto Rogers when she visited Grand Lake in northeast Oklahoma during her vacation in July.

Four days later, Rogers thought she'd caught an intense flu. A day after that, she was in a hospital being tested for aggressive, life-threatening diseases like West Nile and meningitis.

"She was shaking her hands because they hurt, her feet hurt," Morgan said. Rogers went into septic shock, and her limbs turned black and blue.

Doctors amputated them below the knees and elbows in a series of operations, to try to keep the disease from spreading to Rogers' vital organs.

They also located a blood clot in one of her lungs, Morgan wrote on a gofundme page she set up with the title "Help Jo" to take donations for Rogers' mounting medical bills.

"She's a beautiful, energetic, fun person," Morgan said. "Nobody deserves this."

How RMSF works

Rogers' progression of symptoms are typical, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early on, they include headache, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, and muscle pain.

Hundreds of people contract the disease each year, the CDC says. And the rate of infection is three to 10 times the national average in five states -- Oklahoma is one of them.

Summer is high season for infections, and people become progressively vulnerable to the illness as they age, according to the CDC.

Not every tick bite leads to the disease.

Only 1% to 3% of ticks carry the bacteria called Rickettsia rickettsii, according to Oklahoma's health department, and to transmit it, the host tick usually has to bite for four to six hours.