Red Imported Fire Ants Have Killed Scores Of Americans
Numerous non-native insects have been introduced into the United States through the port of Mobile, Alabama. One of these insects is the Solenopsis invicta species, or the red imported fire ant (RIF ant), as the species is more commonly known. The red imported fire ant originated from Brazil, and in only a few decades, this ant has seized 160 million acres of territory covering 13 states in the US. This aggressive ant species decimates native ant populations wherever they go, and they now account for over 90 percent of the ant population in areas where red fire ants are abundant. RIF ants pose a significant public health risk to the 30 million residents of the southern US where these ants are most numerous. Cases of RIF ant stings in this region outnumber cases of all other Hymenoptera stings, including bee and wasp stings. The average sting attack rate of RIF ants is 31 percent, which means that around 9.3 million people will sustain RIF ant stings each year. Surprisingly, most people who live in areas where RIF ants are abundant have sustained stings from the insects. Twelve percent of RIF ant stings result in systemic allergic reactions, and after surveying 2,506 medical professionals concerning RIF ant sting fatalities, it was found that 84 people have died as the result of sustaining RIF ant stings.
Most anaphylactic deaths from RIF ant stings occured in the state of Florida and Texas, which reported 23 and 19 deaths respectively. Men made up a majority of sting fatalities and most deaths occurred in response to less than five stings. In addition to 84 sting fatalities, there were also numerous “near death” reports. Many of these near death reports describe individuals who, upon sustaining RIF ant stings, suffered profound anaphylactic shock along with seizures and an absence of vital signs. Due to the significant risk of developing medical complications in response to RIF ant stings, researchers believe that public health officials should do more to educate the public concerning the dangers posed by RIF ants.
Have you ever sustained stings from red imported fire ants? If you have, did you suffer an allergic response?