Mosquito bites are more than just an itchy nuisance -- these days, they can also be downright dangerous. That’s true even if you never leave home, because you don’t need to travel abroad to catch a mosquito-borne illness; mosquitoes in our area can transmit many different viruses. The time to start practicing insect-bite prevention is now, says Sunil Sood, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Southside Hospital and Cohen Children’s Medical Center. In New York, mosquitoes can be active as early as April.
The risk best known to most people is that of West Nile Virus. Generally, people who get West Nile have mild or no symptoms, but a small percentage of people can develop serious neurologic illness. Another dangerous virus, called eastern equine encephalitis, can also be carried by mosquitoes in our area. “It’s uncommon, but every few years we see a few cases, including in children,” says Sood. And of course there’s also the elephant in the room – the Zika virus, which has recently been linked with birth defects. The mosquitoes that can carry Zika and other tropical viruses are already present in the U.S.; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not ruled out the possibility of domestic spread of Zika this summer.