Mosquitoes and ticks are most active during spring and summer, bringing with them not just a propensity for bites, but also the possibility of serious illness. We checked in with two local concierge physicians for help separating fact from fiction when it comes to ticks, mosquitoes and the major diseases they carry.
MYTH or FACT? You can contract Lyme disease from a tick bite and not exhibit any symptoms.
FACT “Only 80 percent of people with early Lyme disease get the most common symptom, the erythema migrans rash,” which looks like a bulls-eye, says William Harper, MD, of Harper Health. Even those who do get the rash may not notice it, as it can be small or in a hard-to-see spot. And since other signs of Lyme disease — such as fatigue, headaches and joint pain — are non-specific, the disease can be missed in its early stages.
Harper recommends that those who live in areas with large tick populations — the upper Midwest included — conduct regular tick checks. Infected deer ticks must be latched on for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, so if a tick is caught early, the disease can be prevented.
MYTH or FACT? You will contract serious West Nile Virus complications if bitten by an infected mosquito.
Myth Only a small portion of individuals are prone to develop serious West Nile Virus symptoms, says William Kehoe, MD, a concierge physician who practices in Chicago and Skokie. “It’s reassuring to note that the vast majority of mosquitoes do not carry West Nile Virus, and 80 percent of people who are infected with West Nile Virus do not develop any symptoms,” Kehoe says.
Of those who do develop symptoms (such as fatigue, body aches, diarrhea and rash), Kehoe says that most recover completely. “Those at greatest risk are people over 60 with underlying medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, kidney failure, cancer or an impaired immune system.”
Erin O’Donnell is a freelance health and science writer, parent, and graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Walks by Lake Michigan make her happy.