Doc Says Mosquitoes Aren’t As Dangerous As You Think

More rain and a warmer winter means more mosquitoes are flying around earlier than usual. A local doctor says despite what you've heard, it's not that easy to get mosquito-borne viruses, but Houstonians should still be careful.

Dr. Charles Ericsson is the head of the division of clinical infectious diseases at UT-Health Medical School. He says Houston’s climate makes it mosquito friendly, but not necessarily disease friendly.

“We’ve got the mosquitoes that could transmit any number of tropical diseases but thankfully, with our modern mosquito control and so forth, we just don’t see much of that happening, so I don’t think you have to worry about getting malaria or other such tropical diseases. Dengue fever? Well, we see action attempting to kind of cross our border with Mexico, but so far, knock on wood, it hasn’t been a serious problem.”

Dr. Ericsson says there’s a good chance many Houstonians have actually had West Nile Virus or St. Louis Encephalitis, but never realized it. He calls those “sub-clinical” cases.

“A lot of these diseases are asymptomatic. There is clearly a response by the host but they never realize that they had it.”

He says Houstonians still shouldn’t be careless when it comes to mosquito bites.

“People living in Houston should respect the fact that it’s possible to get diseases from mosquitoes. It’s by no means like a typical tropical environment, but you should go out of your way to protect yourself and try not to be bitten by mosquitoes.”

Dr. Ericsson says mosquito repellent with more than 20 percent DEET concentration should be plenty for most outdoor activities. He says other products that contain Picaridin are also effective repellents.