Summer Health Hazards: Mosquito Bites and Diseases

July 21, 2013
Summer Health Hazards: Mosquito Bites and Diseases

Featuring: Dr. Bruce Hirsch, Infectious Disease Specialist, North Shore University Hospital

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.

July 15, 2013
Summer Health Hazards: Tick Bites and Diseases

Featuring: Dr. Bruce Hirsch, Infectious Disease Specialist, North Shore University Hospital

With recent attention on new tick-borne illnesses, these persistent pests slide easily onto Long Island’s list of summer health hazards.

“Long Island is beautiful and it’s very hospitable and it’s a very nice place to live -- particularly if you’re a tick, because you don’t have to pay real estate taxes if you’re not a human being,” said Bruce Hirsch, a physician at North Shore University Hospital who specializes in diseases associated with ticks and other biting insects.

Hirsch explained ticks make their yearly Long Island debuts during the summer months.

“These small ticks, the nymph ticks, come out around this time of year. They come out mid-June, and most Lyme disease -- which is much more common in June, July and August -- is related to a bite by this small stage of the lyme tick.”

Nymph ticks (which are about the size of a poppy seed) won't hurt you when they bite, explained Hirsch, which means that their bites are often missed unless a person is actively searching for them. However, it’s at this small stage that most transmissions of Lyme disease occurs.

But despite whether you feel the tick’s bite or not, size is not the only factor in the Lyme disease equation.

“It requires that the tick really spend some time on us, attached to us, and it’s estimated that the risk of infection with an infected tick is very unusual, unless that tick has prolonged contact with us -- approximately 24 hours,” he explained.

How do I know if I have Lyme disease?

Lyme disease affects a human’s body in stages, said Hirsch, one of which includes a rash. Sometimes called a “target rash” or a “bull's-eye rash,” it has rings of circles, which can vary in color and pattern.

There are other symptoms that can accompany these rashes.

“A person sometimes when they have this rash feels sick, they feel like they have some kind of flu or virus infection, they can be achy, they can have joint pains, they can have low grade fevers,” Hirsch said.

Later stages of Lyme disease include more serious effects such as temporary heart blockage, brain function impairment and nervous system problems, he explained.

But Lyme disease “responds very well to treatment,” said Hirsch, who said doxycycline, the antibiotic used in treatment, also treats other infections related to Lyme disease.

If you think that you have been bitten by a tick, or may have Lyme disease, contact your physician.
What are your tips and tricks for avoiding tick bites during the summer months? Let us know in the comments field below.


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