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GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Experts say Lyme disease is more common than previously thought, but the news may not be quite as bad here in Minnesota as in other places around the country.

The Centers for Disease Control says 10 times as many Americans may be getting Lyme disease, that's 300,000 cases a year as opposed to the 30,000 reported.

But Dave Neitzel with the Minnesota Department of Health says reporting is better in Minnesota, so we likely don't have 10 times the number of reported cases here.

"We think that we're closer to that -- three to four times what's reported -- number," Neitzel said.

Neitzel said we have between 1,000 to 1,300 cases reported a year in Minnesota. If you multiply that by four, we could have more than 5,000 actual cases annually.

And the number of cases is growing.

"Both an increase in case numbers, but also in the geographic spread," Neitzel explained.

Transmitted by the tiny black-legged tick, also known as the deer tick, Lyme disease can cause a rash often in the shape of a bulls eye in 70 to 80 percent of people.

Other symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint aches and fatigue. Antibiotics are used to cure the disease, but timing is important.

"Lyme disease is much easier to treat soon after you've been infected. You don't want to let the bacteria disseminate through your body," Neitzel said.

If not treated early, it could lead to chronic arthritis or heart and nervous system problems.

Neitzel said to avoid Lyme disease, wear long, light colored shirts and pants tucked into socks. Also wear a repellant, up to 30 percent DEET on your skin or permethrin on your clothes. Ticks can die when they come into contact with permethrin.

Then, remove any ticks right away. Deer ticks live in wooded, brushy areas among the leaf litter on the forest floor.

For more tips, visit the Preventing Tick-borne Disease page on the Minnesota Department of Health Website.

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