Information for Public Health Officials

How to Contact the Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch at CDC

The general public and health care providers should first call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) for questions regarding RMSF and other rickettsial diseases. If a consultation with a CDC scientist specializing in rickettsial diseases is advised, your call will be appropriately forwarded.

Case Definition

Spotted fever rickettsioses are nationally notifiable conditions and cases should be reported to your state or local health department according to local laws. As of January 1, 2010, all spotted fever rickettsiosis cases, including those of RMSF, are reported together in a category called Spotted Fever Rickettsiosis (SFR). Most routine laboratory tests are unable to distinguish between RMSF and rickettsial diseases caused by other, antigenically similar Rickettsia species such as R. parkeri, R. akari, and R. species 364D. The details relating to this new category can be found in the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologist Position Statement 09-ID-16.

2010 SFR case definition

Case Report Form

Confirmed and probable cases of spotted fever rickettsiosis are reported through the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System; states are also encouraged to submit additional information using the Tickborne rickettsial disease case report form (CRF). This form collects additional important information that may not otherwise be reported to CDC, such as information on how the diagnosis was made, and whether the patient was hospitalized or died. If a different state-specific form is already used to collect this information, this information may be submitted to CDC in lieu of a CRF.

Tickborne rickettsial disease case report form Cdc-pdf[PDF – 3 pages]

How to Submit Specimens to CDC for Spotted Fever Testing

Commercial tests are available for diagnosing spotted fever rickettsiosis infections, however most do not provide species specificity. The CDC can perform species-specific diagnostic tests by indirect immunofluorescence antibody (IFA), immunohistochemical (IHC), polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and cell culture assays. If a spotted fever group rickettsiosis is suspected, health care providers may submit specimens to the CDC for IFA, IHC, or PCR testing via their state health department. Private citizens may not directly submit specimens to CDC for testing. If you feel that diagnostic testing is necessary, consult your health care provider or state health department.

State Health Departments

Specimens may be submitted to CDC for testing of rickettsial diseases, including RMSF and other spotted fever group rickettsioses. To coordinate specimen submission, please call 404-639-1075 during business hours (8:00 – 4:30 EST).

US Health Care Providers

US health care providers should not submit specimens for testing directly to CDC. CDC policy requires that specimens be submitted through, or with the approval of, the provider’s state health department. Please contact your state health department to assist you with specimen submission and reporting of an infected patient. For general questions about RMSF or other rickettsial diseases, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). If you have questions about a suspect case, please first consult your state health department. Health care providers requiring an epidemiologic consultation on rickettsial diseases may also call 404-639-1075 during business hours (8:00 – 4:30 EST) or 770-488-7100 after hours.

Non-US Health Care Providers

Non-US health care providers should consult CDC prior to submitting specimens for testing. For general questions about spotted fever rickettsioses, please call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or (888-232-6348). If you would like to discuss a suspect rickettsial case with CDC, please call 404-639-1075 during business hours (8:00 – 4:30 EST) or 770-488-7100 after hours.