(INSIDE EDITION) - An Indiana family is reeling after their 2-year-old daughter suffered a brain infection and later died after doctors say she was bitten by a tick.
Kenley Ratliff was stricken with a high fever, swollen hands and an ugly rash all over her body, according to a GoFundMe page established to help with medical and funeral bills.
The child was placed on a ventilator and hospitalized for several days before medical staff removed the breathing device at about 3 a.m. Saturday, a family member wrote on the fundraising site.
Doctors suspect Kenley contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever through a bite, the relative said. The family is now making it their mission to spread awareness about the bacterial infection.
The child's mother "would be devastated to see this happen to anyone else, and I think she would just want everyone to know how much she loved her baby girl," family friend Nichol Kirby told WAVE-TV. "That was her angel."
Medical and health professionals have warned that a warm winter means many ticks did not die off during the season. They have predicted an especially high danger of tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other bacterial infections.
Authorities recommend wearing long pants and long sleeves when walking in wooded and grassy areas. Insect repellent containing the chemical DEET is also recommended.
After being outdoors, experts advise checking your body for ticks, especially the scalp area.
Kenley's family said the toddler loved to play outside, and relatives had no idea where she may have picked up a tick. Doctors recommend that parents closely check their children after they've been outside.
It takes up to two weeks for symptoms to develop from tick-borne diseases. Most often they are rash, fever, headache and nausea.