According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there were 23 confirmed cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the state last year. That number is higher than in recent years with only 105 total confirmed cases in Wisconsin since 2009.
The disease is spread by the Wood or Dog Tick. Health officials say that symptoms can include a fever, widespread rash, muscle aches, and nausea.
"Fatality is incredibly rare with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever," said Megan Meller, Infection Prevention Specialist with Gundersen Health Systems. "Those who may be a little bit more at risk for fatality are those who are immune compromised to some degree or those who don’t seek treatment in the first five days."
There are three known types of ticks in Wisconsin. The Deer Tick is the most common and is known for spreading Lyme disease. The other two are the Lone Star Tick and the Wood or Dog Tick.
"A tick is a tick. For most of us, we’re not going to know the difference," said Jo Foellmi, a Public Health Nurse with La Crosse County. "If you start feeling the symptoms–the nausea, the vomiting, diarrhea–see a physician."
Meller says ticks transmitting the disease can be as small as a dot. She says it is important to always check yourself and your pets after being outdoors. Other precautions include wearing long pants and long sleeves as well as tick repellent with at least 20-percent DEET.
Foellmi did confirm that the La Crosse County woman who died from Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever got the disease from a tick bite while camping at the end of May. There is no word on where she was camping at the time she contracted the illness.
Although it is important to be aware of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Meller says Lyme disease is much more common. While it can be deadly, less than one-percent infected with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever die from it. Lyme disease, while also serious, is rarely fatal.