A 2-year-old girl from Plainfield, Indiana, died on Saturday morning after her family says she was bitten by a tick that was carrying Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
When Kenley Ratliff came down with a high fever that wouldn't break, her family took her to the emergency room two separate times thinking she might have strep throat, according to WISH.
The child was released from the facility both times, but when her fever ultimately wouldn't come down, she was admitted to Riley's Children Hospital in Indianapolis.
Kenley remained hospitalized for several days while fighting a fever of about 104 F, which caused her brain to swell and her internal organs to fail, according to the family's GoFundMe page.
Doctors placed Kenley on a breathing tube and administered antibiotics while working tirelessly to diagnose her, but she succumbed to her illness around 3 a.m. on June 3.
"Her mother was holding her hand, her little two year old hand was just so swollen it was almost the size of her mother's," family friend Nichol Kirby told WISH. "She had purple rashes splotches all over her body and ununiformed (sic) pattern just all over little tiny purple spots big purple patches."
%shareLinks-quote="Just the condition of this poor baby laying there the way she was it's a mother's nightmare a father's nightmare. " type="quote" author="Nichol Kirby" authordesc="" isquoteoftheday="false"%
Doctors later diagnosed Kenley with Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a tick-borne disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii.
According to the CDC, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can prove fatal if not treated within the first few days of symptoms, which include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle pain and, occasionally, a splotchy rash.
Kirby told WISH that Kenley's mother hopes their tragic story serves to remind other families to always check for ticks.
"She would be devastated to see this to happen to anyone else and I think she would just everyone to know how much she loved her baby girl that was her angel," she said.
Experts have started warning parents and doctors to be on high alert for ticks this summer, as it has been declared an especially bad season due to the mild winter and growing deer and mice populations.
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