A 2-year-old girl from Indiana has died from what doctors believe was Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and now her family is speaking out to raise awareness of the rare disease.
Kenley Ratliff died in the hospital on June 3, reports WISH. She had been admitted a week earlier with a high fever that wasn't improving. She also had a brain infection, swollen hands and rashes covering her body.
Family friend Nichol Kirby said doctors gave Kenley antibiotics and fit her with a breathing tube while they tried to diagnose the problem.
"She had a 104-degree fever and that fever remained about a 103.8 all week long up until her untimely death on Saturday morning at 2:45 a.m.," she told WISH. "Her mother was holding her hand her little 2-year-old hand was just so swollen it was almost the size of her mother's."
"Just the condition of this poor baby laying there the way she was, it's a mother's nightmare [and] a father's nightmare," Kirby added.
While Kenley's family is still waiting for the autopsy results to confirm the cause of death, doctors told them they believe Kenley had contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
According to Mayo Clinic, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a bacterial infection caused by a tick bite. It is most frequently seen in the southeastern part of the U.S., and is also present in certain regions of Canada, Central America and South America.
WISH reports that the Indiana State Health Department recorded 40 cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in 2016, up from 30 in 2015.
Kirby said the family is in shock about how quickly the toddler's health deteriorated.
"She was such a lovely, happy, bubbly girl two weeks ago and all of a sudden she's gone," she said, adding that Kenley was fond of the outdoors and liked to share Snapchat videos with her mother.
"Her mother and father cannot believe that she is gone that their baby girl is gone now."
Kirby went on to say that Kenley's parents are determined to raise awareness of how dangerous tick bites can be.
"Everyone [should] be very diligent about checking their children for ticks, checking their animals for ticks [and] making sure that those pets are treated," she said.
A GoFundMe page was set up in Kenley's name on June 2 and had raised more than $5,000 by June 7. The donations will be used to pay for funeral costs and medical bills.