It was supposed to be a fun trip to a pumpkin patch.
But afterward, 27-year-old Jennifer Velasquez of San Diego, Calif., says she started getting red bumps across her body.
When Velasquez sought medical treatment, she was diagnosed with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, she said in a Facebook post last week. Velasquez suspects she contracted it by getting bitten by a tick when she wasn’t covered up at a pumpkin patch.
“I couldn’t walk, my whole body was in pain, my hair fell out, and I almost died,” Velasquez wrote, along with a picture of the painful rash that left deep pink splotches down her leg.
It happened to Velasquez two years ago, she says, but tick-borne illnesses are just as prevalent today — and in some areas, they may even be getting more common.
In Illinois, the number of tick-borne illnesses reported to the state’s health department ballooned from 40 in 2000 to 200 cases in 2010 — and by 2016, the number of cases was as high as 350, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Oklahoma has had 2,000 cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick-borne bacterial infections since 2012, and four have died of those diseases, according to KFOR.
“It’s actually one of the more lethal tick bite diseases,’ Dr. Terry Gerard, an emergency room doctor at Alliance Health in Oklahoma, told KXII.
So what is Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever? It’s a bacterial infection, and humans get it when a tick passes it onto them, causing fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and that painful rash of red spots, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If it’s not treated quickly, the fever can inflict lasting damage on its victims’ hearts and kidneys, according to Mayo Clinic. It’s most prevalent in the southeast U.S., though ticks have been known to carry it into Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America.
Untreated, as many as 80 percent of those infected have died, Mayo Clinic reports.
But if it’s caught within five days of symptoms first cropping up, the fever — diagnosed with a blood sample — can be treated with antibiotics, according to Mayo Clinic.
A woman diagnosed with the disease in Oklahoma earlier this month says she got bitten by a tick walking her dog. When a rash started to appear, at first she didn’t think much of it, KXII reports.
“You think, maybe it's the new detergent or something,” Connie Teeters told KXII.
But two weeks later, as symptoms worsened, she headed to the doctor.
“I was thinking Lyme Disease,” she told the TV station. “They called me back and said it's Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and I'm like, ‘What is that?!’ ”
Despite the danger, experts and those recovering from the disease say that fear of the disease shouldn’t keep people locked in their houses.
Anyone going outside should just cover up, use bug spray, check for ticks and visit a doctor if symptoms appear, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“No, I'm not saying don't go to a pumpkin patch,” Velasquez wrote on Facebook. “Just be sure to cover up when you go, and do a tick check when you get home.”