Montana Public Radio

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

 

Protests against how the state and federal government is handling coronavirus have surged across the country and in Montana. Most recently, animal rights protestors gathered outside Rocky Mountain Labs in Hamilton where scientists are hard at work on a vaccine. But public opposition to scientific efforts has a long history in Montana. 

The entrance at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, MT.
National Institutes of Health - Public Domain

A federal government lab nestled in a town of 5,000 people in the Bitterroot Valley is responsible for finding the first vaccines for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, manufacturing the nation’s supply of yellow fever vaccines during World War II and helping to develop a lifesaving Ebola vaccine as the disease debilitated West Africa.

Now Rocky Mountain Labs is turning its attention to COVID-19.

Where Rocky Mountain wood ticks live
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (PD)

Spring has hit western Montana in full force. Days are longer than nights, temperatures are warming, and the snow is gone for the lower elevations. Animals that live here throughout the year, but become quiescent during the long, cold winters, are once again warm, active, and searching for their first meals of the spring. Such an animal is the Rocky Mountain wood tick, one of approximately 825 species of ticks known in the world, which as a group feeds solely on the blood of terrestrial vertebrates.