Epidemiology and clinical features of rocky mountain spotted fever from enhanced surveillance, Sonora, Mexico: 2015-2018

Diego I. Álvarez-López, Estefanía Ochoa-Mora, Kristen Nichols Heitman, Alison M. Binder, Gerardo Álvarez-Hernández, Paige A. Armstrong*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, is a severe and potentially fatal tickborne disease. In 2015, Mexico issued a declaration of epidemiologic emergency in response to ongoing outbreaks of RMSF in northern Mexico. Sonora state is one of the most heavily impacted states in Mexico, with historic case fatality rates (CFRs) of 18%. We summarized data from enhanced surveillance to understand demographic, clinical, and treatment factors associated with the high mortality. We conducted a retrospective review of confirmed and probable RMSF cases reported to the General Directorate of Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Sonora. A case of RMSF is defined as fever (> 38.5°C), plus two symptoms, and epidemiologic criteria. A confirmed case requires laboratory evidence. During 2015-2018, a total of 510 cases of RMSF were reported; 252 (49%) were in persons aged £ 18 years. Case fatality rate was 44% (n = 222). Older age and being confirmed by PCR were associated with fatal outcome (P-value < 0.01). The mean time from onset of symptoms to treatment with doxycycline was 7.9 days (SD ± 5.5). Hot spot analysis revealed neither areas of inordinately high nor low incidence, rather clusters of disease in population centers. The CFR for RMSF in Sonora remains high, and a large proportion of cases are seen in persons aged £ 18 years. Whereas previously children experienced a disproportionately high CFR, interventions have reversed this trend. Disease clusters in urban nuclei, but location remains a predictor of fatal outcome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)190-197
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number1
StatePublished - 6 Jan 2021

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Copyright © 2021 by The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene


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