Fire-ant attacks on nursing home residents highlighted
University of Mississippi researchers have documented at least six attacks by fire ants in Southern nursing homes over the last 10 years, indicating the need for vigilance against the non-native pests, they said. The bugs also have caused harm to residents in private residents and hotels recently, the researchers pointed out.The nursing home attacks occurred in pairs of facilities in Florida, Texas and Mississippi. Four or more residents died within a week of one of the fire-ant incidents.
Also recently in the news was the jury-trial award of $136,000 to the daughter of a nursing home resident in Alabama who suffered hundreds of fire-ant bites. The resident died three weeks later of possibly related causes.
"In a sense, this is a wake-up call for the future," said Robin Rockhold, a professor of toxicology and pharmacology at the University of Mississippi Medical School, who presented findings of his study at the Red Imported fire Ant Conference in Baton Rouge. "We need recognition of the potential for this problem."
The threat of fire ants currently exists only in Southern coastal areas, up to perhaps 50 miles inland, though officials believe their reach may be extending.