A second case of rickettsiosis, a potentially fatal tick-borne bacterial illness, has been reported in Tijuana, state health officials announced on Wednesday, July 15.
Earlier reports of the disease had been confined mostly to Mexicali, where, according to multiple news reports, 25 people lost their lives to the illness in 2014. So far this year, rickettsiosis has killed 14 Baja Californians — 13 in Mexicali and 1 in Ensenada.
Federal health officials, alarmed by the growing epidemic in Baja California, issued a health alert in mid-May.
The two Tijuana cases are a recent development. The first involved a 6-year-old boy from Colonia Maclovio Rojas. He was admitted to Tijuana's General Hospital on June 26 after doctors suspected he had the disease. It wasn't until lab tests came back on July 8 that the diagnosis was confirmed. While the youngster remains hospitalized, he is reported to be out of danger.
On July 15, state health officials told reporters that a second case had been reported in Tijuana — that of an 8-year-old boy from Colonia Cerro Colorado. His illness was caught soon enough that he has been able to undergo antibiotic therapy at home.
The 6-year-old who fell ill from the disease was the first confirmed case of rickettsiosis in Tijuana since 2012, according to health authorities. Another 10 cases are suspected in Tijuana, Tecate, and Rosarito, but have yet to be confirmed by lab tests, they said.
Authorities have already begun fumigating homes in the Maclovio Rojas and Cerro Colorado neighborhoods in hopes of suppressing the spread of the illness, which is passed on by tick bites.
Thousands of homes in Mexicali have been fumigated and an estimated 500 dogs have been rounded up from the streets as health officials battle to contain the disease, according to press accounts.
Health officials have urged residents to seek medical attention immediately if they have symptoms of the disease. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle pain, and a general sensation of feeling ill. The disease is easily treated with antibiotics if caught soon enough, but the longer a patient goes without treatment, the worse the chances are of full recovery. Many cases require hospitalization and recovery can take a long time. As many as 20 percent of those infected with the illness will die, particularly if untreated for more than five days.
Health officials recommend that residents of Baja keep their patios and similar areas well scrubbed, especially where household pets live. They also recommend regularly mowing lawns and other areas where ticks might live. Weeds should be cut down and grass kept short. Household pets, particularly dogs, should be bathed weekly with a suitable pesticide. And tick-infested areas should be sprayed with a non-toxic household insecticide.