Should I be worried about Tick Bite Fever?

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

There is now panic needed – if you feel you want to protect yourself and your family – then go for it. As Sodwana is mostly rural area it won’t be such a bad idea to get hold of some kind of tick spray at your local pharmacy before you leave for your trip.  Don’t worry > You won’t get this by just being on the beach – you more likely to encounter ticks when you do outdoor excursions into the bush or walk where cattle crazes.


  • Tick bite fever is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks.
  • Being bitten by ticks usually occurs during outdoor activities.
  • Symptoms may include fever, headache, malaise and a skin rash.
  • Severity of illness can vary considerably.
  • Tick bite fever can be treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline
  • African tick bite fever is usually mild, and death and serious complications are very uncommon. Complications can include encephalitis, pneumonia and damage to the brain and heart.


Typical features may include:

The presence of a black mark where the bite occurred; fever; severe headache; rash.

The black mark at the site of the tick bite is called an eschar (or a tache noir), and looks like a small ulcer (2-5mm in diameter) with a black centre. It may look something like a spider bite. The eschars can be single or multiple and can sometimes be very difficult to find. The eschar usually appears once the fever appears, as does the headache and malaise (general feeling of ill-health). Lymph nodes near the eschar may be enlarged.

A rash is usually, but not always, a feature of tick bite fever (it is supposedly less likely to occur in someone infected by R. africae), but when it is present, it consists of small red marks on the skin, sometimes raised slightly above the surface. It typically starts on the limbs and spreads to the trunk, and can involve the entire body, including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Type of Damage:

Humans can contract African tick-bite fever, due to the transmission of Ricketttsia by Amblyomma hebraeum. Bites form Amblyomma hebraeum are painful and the wound may become infected.


Vaccination is the best way of preventing infection from tick- bite
The antigen is derived from a crude extract of partially engorged adult female ticks. It stimulates the production of an antibody that damages tick gut cells and kills the ticks or quickly reduces their reproductive potential. Animals can be rotated through different pastures.

  • Put on loose fitting clothing with long sleeves and pants. Light coloured clothing makes it easy to see ticks.
  • Permethrin on clothing. Permethrin is an insecticide that will prevent biting insects.
  • Apply an insect repellent (N, N-Diethyl-metaToluamide also known as DEET).
  • DEET – adverse effects can be minimized by:
    • Apply DEET compound sparingly to exposed skin or clothing
    • Don’t inhale or ingest repellants. Avoid eye contact
    • Avoid putting repellent onto children’s hands to avoid eye/mouth contact
    • Do not apply on cuts, abrasions or broken skin
    • Wash repellent off after being outdoors
  • Sleep under mosquito netting.
  • Use an air conditioner in apartments and hotel rooms and be sure to repair torn screens.
  • Destroy nearby breeding sites. (Water collecting in containers)
  • Mosquito coils and vapour mats.
  • DEET impregnated wrist and ankle bands.
  • Spray living quarters with insecticide to kill inevitable insect and bugs.