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*by Sucharu Prakash, MD*
Q: I got bit by mosquitoes a few days ago. I developed redness and swelling over the bites, and last night had a low grade fever. Do I need to be concerned?
A: It looks like the mosquitoes got you pretty good. This is mosquito season, and every precaution needs to be taken to avoid mosquito bites. The mosquitoes can not only be a nuisance but can cause serious illness.
When a mosquito bites, she injects saliva and anti-coagulants at the site (only the females bite). This area can become inflamed and itchy, and red hives can appear. Some adults can become desensitized to mosquitoes and have little or no reaction to their bites, while others can become hyper-sensitive with bites causing blistering, bruising, and large inflammatory reactions, a response known as Skeeter Syndrome. The itching, redness and swelling subside over time. So that is nothing to be concerned about. However, if you develop fever or other symptoms, a visit to the doctor may be in order.
Let me tell you about the various mosquito-borne diseases. According to the WHO, Mosquito-borne diseases are among the world’s leading causes of illness and death today. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 300 million clinical cases each year are attributable to mosquito-borne illnesses. Most of these are a problem in the tropical areas; however, lately some of these have risen in incidence in the United States.
WEST NILE FEVER
West Nile virus was introduced to the US in 1999, and in a few years, it had spread to almost every state. West Nile Virus may start off with just a fever, or a mild headache, nausea or rash, but rarely symptoms can be severe including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, vision loss, and paralysis. These symptoms usually start 1 – 2 weeks after a mosquito bite, and could last for several weeks. People who are most likely to show symptoms are infants, the elderly and people with auto-immune deficiencies.
Encephalitis in various forms (including West Nile and Eastern Equine) is endemic to the United States and increasing in incidence. Although still extremely rare, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has a 30% – 60% mortality rate once contracted. Symptoms usually occur within two to ten days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. These symptoms include high fever, stiff neck, headache, confusion, and lethargy.
Dengue fever is primarily a disease of the tropics. Those infected with dengue can have just flu like illness, or severe and fatal hemorrhagic fever (DHF). DHF causes severe internal bleeding, shock, and circulatory collapse, and is usually fatal in children. Until recently, dengue was relatively unknown in the Western Hemisphere. However, cases of Dengue Fever have been popping up in the U.S. along the Texas-Mexican border where it has never been seen before.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that is transmitted from person to person by the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. This is a disease of the tropics and subtropics. Symptoms of malaria can resemble flu and include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, and malaise. These symptoms can develop 6-8 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito or as late as several months after the traveler has left the area. If you travel to a country where malaria is a problem, appropriate prophylaxis needs to be taken (anti-malarial drugs).
* Some of the information obtained from Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
This information is strictly an opinion of Dr Prakash, and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Dr Chris Prakash is a contributing columnist, and author of eParisExtra’s “The Doctor is In” column. He is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology Paris. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Oncology and Hematology. He lives in Paris, TX with his wife and two children, and can be reached at 9037850031, or Sucharu.firstname.lastname@example.org