Health Watch -- Bug Alert

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

We aren't the only ones who come out to play when the weather gets warmer.

Warm spring days are an invitation to go outside, but watch for the insects that have also come out. Many communities are already warning about West Nile virus. This virus is carried in birds and spread to humans by mosquitoes. The disease has caused more than 300 deaths in the United States since 1999. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say the way to avoid West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites.

Dr. James Luby, an infectious diseases expert at UT Southwestern, says you can help control the mosquito population by emptying any standing containers of water around your house. That's where mosquitoes breed. Avoid going outdoors during peak mosquito times - at dawn, at dusk and in the early evening. When you do go outdoors, use a mosquito repellent containing DEET and wear long sleeves and long pants.

Another insect you may need to look out for in warm weather is the fire ant. Fire ants have spread throughout the southern United States, where they thrive in the warm, moist climate. These ants are very aggressive, and their stings are painful. One ant can inflict up to eight stings.

Dr. David Khan, a UT Southwestern allergist, says most people develop an itchy bump from a fire ant sting. That bump develops into a pustule within the next day and usually heals on its own. People who are allergic to fire ant bites may need to consider allergy therapy.


May 2004