Florida mom warns: 'There's Lyme disease everywhere'

Illness sometimes misdiagnosed in Florida because it's less common

By Jennifer Waugh - The Morning Show anchor, I-Team reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The number of people in Florida infected with Lyme disease has spiked dramatically.

And Florida mom Melanie Milner is living proof that Sunshine State doctors can be slow to diagnosis the disease, which is more prevalent in the Northeast where the deer ticks that spread it are more common.

According to a recent Quest Laboratories study, there was a 77% increase in the number of Lyme disease infections in Florida between 2015 and 2017.

Milner said the symptoms of her Lyme disease, including anxiety, depression and severe migraines, have changed her as a mother.

“My daughter has never known a healthy mom,” Milner said. “I have been sick since she was little.”

Milner said she was so sick she could hardly get off the couch to spend time with her children. She said her husband had no idea he brought ticks home on his clothing from a hunting trip to Camp Blanding.

“He left his clothes by the bed and I believe ticks got into the bed and bit me while I was sleeping,” Milner said. “I found ticks in the bed.”

Lyme disease is transmitted through a tick's bite. The insect crawls onto a human and embeds in the skin. Because the ticks that carry Lyme disease are not often found in the Southeast, Milner said it took years for her to get diagnosed.

“Doctors were telling me there is no Lyme disease here in Florida,” Milner said. “There's Lyme disease everywhere. Ticks don't know boundaries. They migrate too.”

In addition to migraines and joint pain, symptoms of Lyme disease also include fever, chills and headache. Milner believes her lingering sickness is because doctors missed the warning signs, delaying her treatment.

After more than a year, she is is still struggling, but for her family's sake, she's not giving up the fight.

“I don't know if I will ever feel 100% but that's my goal,” Milner said. “And I'm going to work toward it, whatever it takes.”

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