Texas residents dialing 911 to report mosquito bites as fear of West Nile virus spreads

POSTED: Friday, August 24, 2012 - 11:30am

UPDATED: Friday, August 24, 2012 - 11:34am

Fear of the West Nile virus is keeping Texas 911 operators busy.

People are calling 911 and asking for an ambulance for simple mosquito bites.

A Fort Worth woman recently called the MedStar EMS ambulance service to report that her 1-year-old nephew was apparently bitten.

"I got scared because that bite looks like that mosquito bite like they show on the TV," the woman said.

The 911 operator asked if the baby was awake and responsive.

"Yes, he's playing around like normal," the woman said. "I just want to make sure that it's nothing, you know, dangerous."

MedStar managers say they have received a number of similar calls.

"We've received probably half a dozen to a dozen from people who have gotten bitten by mosquitoes -- no signs of symptoms -- but they call 911," said MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky.

In the case of the 1-year-old boy, an ambulance was dispatched, taking paramedics out of service for 45 minutes.

The baby was not transported to the hospital.

"There's been so much discussion in the community about West Nile, everybody is super sensitive," Zavadsky said. "The slightest opportunity for someone to get West Nile, they sort of panic, and they don't know what else to do. We've taught them over the years to call 911, so that's what they do."

Emergency managers want people to know that a simple mosquito bite is not an emergency.

"You don't need to call 911 if you've been bitten by a mosquito and you're not exhibiting any symptoms," he said.

People with non-emergency questions about West Nile virus can call their local health department or family doctor.

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