A tick is to blame for the recent death of a Wilkes County woman, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Health officials said the woman, who was not identified, died June 26 from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, myfoxwghp.com reported Thursday.

"North Carolina leads the nation in Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever cases," said Parker Whitt, an environmental specialist, adding that the state has anywhere from 500 to 800 cases a year.

Rocky Mountain is a serious, life-threatening condition caused by Rickettsia rickettsii, a species of bacteria that is spread to humans by ticks, according to the Web site of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite its name, the disease is not confined to the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S. Between 1981 and 1996, the disease was reported from every U.S. state except Hawaii, Vermont, Maine and Alaska.

Initial symptoms of the disease may include fever, nausea, vomiting, severe headache, muscle pain, lack of appetite. A rash on the forearms, wrists and ankles usually appears within two to five days. More serious, life-threatening symptoms can develop if the disease goes untreated.

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