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MedStar: Don't Call 911 for Mosquito Bites

Some people without West Nile virus symptoms are calling 911 and asking for an ambulance for simple mosquito bites.
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MedStar EMS says some people are calling 911 and asking for an ambulance -- for simple mosquito bites.

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

"And 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.

What's the best way to avoid a mosquito bite?

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."

But now 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.

The Texas Department of Health also operates a hotline. The number is 817-264-4612.