Increasing Incidence of Spotted Fever Group Rickettsioses in the United States, 2010-2018

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2022 Sep;22(9):491-497. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2022.0021. Epub 2022 Aug 26.


Spotted fever group Rickettsia species are intracellular bacteria transmitted by tick or mite vectors and that cause human diseases referred to as spotted fever group rickettsioses, or spotted fevers. In the United States, the most recognized and commonly reported spotted fevers are Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) (Rickettsia rickettsii), Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, Pacific Coast tick fever (Rickettsia species 364D), and rickettsialpox (Rickettsia akari). In this study, we summarize and evaluate surveillance data on spotted fever cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System from 2010 to 2018. During this period, there were 36,632 reported cases of spotted fevers with 95.83% (N = 35,104) reported as meeting the case definition as probable and 4.17% (N = 1528) reported as meeting the case definition as confirmed. The average national incidence of total cases, both probable and confirmed, was 12.77 cases per million persons per year. The highest statewide incidence was in Arkansas, with 256.84 per million per year, whereas the lowest incidence occurred in California, with 0.32 per million per year (note that spotted fevers were not notifiable in Hawaii and Alaska). Cases of spotted fevers were reported more frequently among males by gender, White by race, and non-Hispanic by ethnicity. The incidence of spotted fevers increased significantly from 2010 to 2018, but it is uncertain how many of the reported cases were RMSF and how many developed from more moderate spotted fevers. Improvement of the ability to differentiate between spotted fever group Rickettsia species is needed.

Keywords: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists; National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System; Rocky Mountain spotted fever; incidence; spotted fever group rickettsioses (spotted fevers).

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Rickettsia Infections* / epidemiology
  • Rickettsia Infections* / microbiology
  • Rickettsia Infections* / veterinary
  • Rickettsia rickettsii
  • Rickettsia*
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever* / epidemiology
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever* / microbiology
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever* / veterinary
  • Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis* / epidemiology
  • Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis* / veterinary
  • United States / epidemiology