PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- Family members believe a tick bite may be to blame for an Indiana toddler’s death over the weekend.
The family of two-year-old Kenley Ratliff is sharing her story to warn other parents about how dangerous tick bites can be, especially for young children.
"She just glowed everywhere she went," said Kenley's aunt, Jordan Clapp. "That white hair made her stand out, and she had big brown eyes."
Ratliff's family say the toddler went from a healthy happy little girl to dangerously sick in just one week.
It started as a high fever. Doctors told Kenley's parents that she likely had a virus - perhaps strep throat - but antibiotics just weren't helping.
On day five, the fever hadn't passed, and Kenley went limp. Her mother rushed her to Riley Hospital for Children.
"At (the hospital), she closed her eyes and she never opened them again," said Clapp.
Kenley died at Riley Hospital for Children on Sunday.
Clapp said before Kenley died a rash appeared, one that they were told was likely caused by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is spread by ticks.
"I just can't believe a tiny thing can be so destructive to such a little baby that's so innocent," said Clapp.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a rare, tick-borne illness that’s on the rise in Indiana. Symptoms typically include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. Many people who suffer from RMSF also develop a rash.
According to the Center for Disease Control andPrevention, the disease is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick species.
Family members are still waiting for the autopsy results, which could take two weeks, to determine what exactly killed their little girl, but they believe they already know the answer.
"I'm so thankful that I got to spend the two years and Kayla's thankful she even had the two years she had with her daughter," said Clapp. "Her father, Stony, is so thankful for the memories we have now."
"We don't want any family to go through what we did," said Clapp. "It just happened so fast and we couldn't do anything about it. She was just laying there in the hospital living off of a breathing tube and we couldn't do a thing for her."
The Indiana Department of Health says only five cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever have been reported in the state over the past five years, but because of the warm winter, experts are warning Hoosiers that this year could be an especially bad year for ticks.
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