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Dr. Kerry Clark's groundbreaking research shows the prevalence of Lyme Disease in Florida. Katie Jeffries, First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, FLA -- Kylie Jo Hood never expected the impact a tiny tick would have on her life. She began to feel like she had the flu, but then the symptoms got worse.

"Extreme pain in my joints and hands fingers toes, feeling numb in both the tips of my fingers and feet as well as my mouth," tells Hood.

She went to 17 different specialists, but none tested her for Lyme Disease because she lives in a southern state and it is a common belief in medical circles that Lyme is not prevalent here. That is exactly the kind of thinking Dr. Kerry Clark at the University of North Florida is trying to stop.

"Certainly it is occurring in the local area as well and we are seeing that patients are having a tremendously difficult time getting tested for Lyme and getting diagnosed and treated for it," says Dr. Clark.

In his recently published research, he tested blood samples from people and animals in southern states and found 42% of his 215 subjects tested positive.

"The bacteria is out there in nature or in our pets so we need to be concerned about it," tells Dr. Clark.

Not all tick bites show the traditional bull-eye ring around the bite to indicate Lyme, so Dr. Clark and Kylie Jo Hood stress that patients have to ask their doctors to be tested.

"We are missing out on so many people that have un-diagnosed symptoms and are getting misdiagnosed and maybe mistreated in the sense that they are taking lots of antibiotics that might not be necessary or even treating the root cause of Lyme," explains Hood.

If you find a tick on yourself or a pet you can send it to Dr. Kerry Clark at the University of North Florida and he will test it for Lyme.

For more information on Lyme Disease in Florida visit the Florida Lyme Disease Association website: www.flda.org

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