Former Dem Sen. Kay Hagan died from a virus she contracted by a tick bite
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) speaks during a campaign event in Charlotte, North Carolina October 25, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) died at age 66 this week after a long bout with an illness she contracted after being bitten by a tick.

The Charlotte Observer reports that Hagan passed away after she spent the last three years suffering from a disease caused by the tick-borne Powassan virus.

According to medical experts, this virus resulted in Hagan coming down with encephalitis, which the Mayo Clinic describes as "an inflammation of the brain" that is only rarely seen as life threatening. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of the disease can include "confused thinking, seizures, or problems with senses or movement."

Chip Hagan, the late senator's husband, told the Greensboro News & Record earlier this year that that his wife's speech had been significantly limited by her fight with the illness, but he said she was still able to listen and comprehend when talking with others.

Hagan passed away in her sleep in her home in Greensboro, North Carolina on Monday.