In Wisconsin, there was a 35 percent increase in human Lyme disease cases reported in 2010, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Experts are warning both rural and urban residents to be cautious while in wooded areas and to seek treatment as early as possible.
Mosinee, Wis., resident Mike Nickel, operator of an online support group for people with Lyme disease and whose son spent two years recovering from it, says he believes most Wisconsin doctors are not equipped to handle chronic forms of the disease. Most, he said, are not "Lyme literate."
Ronda Arndorfer of Monches, Wis., a parent whose adult child also fought the disease for two years, is another who thinks the state's physicians need to do better.
"Doctors in Wisconsin don't understand Lyme disease. It hasn't been around as long in Wisconsin," she said. "Doctors in the East understand it."
Recognition of the infectious disease, transmitted by deer ticks, is not always easy; it can take weeks to be detected in humans. Early symptoms can include flu-like symptoms, as well as a bulls-eye-shaped rash. If untreated, the disease can mutate, creating chronic symptoms.
Experts say white-tailed deer, carrier of deer ticks, live in large numbers in Wisconsin and Minnesota, thus producing higher infection rates in those states.
"People hate the idea of long pants and long socks in the summer, but it's a good measure, along with DEET-containing tick repellents," said Jenifer Coburn, a professor of medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.