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Summer health hazards: Mosquito bites and diseases

There were 28 reported cases of West Nile

There were 28 reported cases of West Nile virus on Long Island in 2012, including one fatal case in Nassau, according to Dr. Bruce Hirsch, a physician at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. Credit: Science Source Images

An unfortunate byproduct of warmer weather, biting insects, namely mosquitos, have crept up next to ticks onto our list of summer health hazards on Long Island.

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, a physician at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset who specializes in diseases associated with biting insects, first spoke with us about ticks and has moved on to address the problems involving mosquito populations on Long Island.

Hirsch said West Nile virus is one of two significant mosquito-related diseases found in our area with 14 cases each reported in Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2012, including one fatal case in Nassau. There were 10 West Nile cases reported in Queens during the same period.

The other mosquito-borne disease found on Long Island, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, is both very unusual and very serious in humans, Hirsch said, explaining that the virus “attacks the brain and causes death and severe brain damage, generally in the very old and sometimes in very young people as well.”

While West Nile is not as severe as EEE, it still has the potential to cause serious health complications.

“West Nile virus, because of the different types of health problems -- specifically the way it attacks the nervous system -- can be a very, very significant clinical illness, particularly in older individuals who are dealing with other health problems,” he said, adding that it can cause brain and nerve damage.

A fact sheet on West Nile virus posted on the New York State Department of Health website lists the possible symptoms of the virus as: “headache, high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, stupor, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma.”

It also says that an estimated one in 150 persons infected with the West Nile virus will develop the more severe form of the disease, and that many people who contract the disease won’t experience any symptoms at all. Those who do will see them occur three to 14 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.

If you think that you may have contracted either West Nile or EEE, contact your doctor. Have you or someone you know contracted a disease from mosquitos on Long Island? Let us know in the comments field below.


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