TEXAS – With hundreds of human cases of the West Nile Virus being reported across Texas and more than a dozen related deaths in North Texas it seems some people are overreacting and calling 911 when they’re bitten by a mosquito.
In short, health officials say a mosquito is not a health emergency.
“We understand peoples concerns regarding the West Nile Virus, but in the absence of any symptoms of West Nile then a simple mosquito bite is really not a reason for someone to call 911,” said Matt Zavadsky, public affairs director for MedStar Emergency Medical Services.
One woman called Fort Worth 911 requesting assistance because her young nephew had a bump on his arm.
While Fort Worth 911 has a nurse triage program during the day, at night the options are different for emergency workers.
“So our only option at that point is to send an ambulance to that call which takes that emergency resource out of the system — to respond to the motor vehicle accidents, the heart attacks — while we assess that mosquito bite on scene and then have the patient sign some paperwork for us, to allow us to leave,” Zavadsky explained.
Health officials say even if the West Nile Virus is transmitted by a mosquito bite the person would have no symptoms while the virus incubates. An individual wouldn’t begin to feel ill until the virus manifested itself several days later.
If a person is worried that they’ve contracted West Nile health officials say they should contact their personal physician or go to a health clinic. Residents can also get health information by calling 311 in Dallas and 211 in Fort Worth.
When it comes to staying safe Zavadsky said the battle must be a personal one.
“The best protection against catching West Nile Virus is a defensive position — wear long sleeve clothes, wear long pants, look into your neighborhood and look into your backyard to make sure that you don’t have a breeding ground for those mosquitos,” he urged. “Just be proactive about it and prevent the mosquito bite and you can sleep better at night.”