A couple weeks ago, a young lady in south Alabama tragically lost her life after a fire ant attack. Although young and seemingly healthy, she suffered an allergic attack and died.
Fire ants present a danger to young and old. While deaths among young and healthy people are much more rare, they do occur.
In my practice, I’ve seen the special danger swarming fire ants present for elderly or immobile people. Several years ago, I worked on a case in Huntsville involving an elderly nursing home patient viciously attacked over the course of two separate nights. On the morning of the second night of attacks, our client’s daughter arrived for a visit. She walked into one of the most horrible scenes imaginable. She saw thousands upon thousands of ants swarming her elderly mother’s bed. She then heard her elderly mother screaming from the bathroom. When she entered the bathroom, she found a nursing home attendant desperately trying to clean ants from her mother. The injuries were horrible. Yet, the attacks should never have occurred. They could have easily been prevented by the nursing home.
Small children. Elderly people. Ill and infirm patients. These groups are especially at risk. A Texas A&M study discusses this risk of injury and death. According to the study:
Fire ants can present a medical threat to immobile patients and a potential legal liability. In at least 20 known cases in Texas since 1991, fire ants have attacked patients in nursing homes. . .
Day cares and nursing homes have special rules concerning animals and pests which can harm their patients. These rules are important. With fire ants, an attack can occur swiftly. These ants can swarm quickly and produce tragic harm.
The excellent south Alabama attorney Billy Cunningham has written previously about fire ants. According to Billy, fire ants originally came to the U.S. in ships arriving at his hometown Mobile, Alabama. Billy writes about the danger to vulnerable patients. He also provides some practical advice. As Billy writes:
Nursing homes, hospitals and day cares – those places where the vulnerable are located- need to recognize this risk and take appropriate actions to assure the safety of their patients and wards. With appropriate interventions nursing home neglect, hospital neglect and day care neglect can be avoided. These fire ants can be controlled by appropriate licensed pest control operators. You as the consumer need to be aware too and look for signs in your loved ones’ rooms or areas. Ask the facility if they are looking out for ants and other animals that could cause injury and who the pest control company is. There is no reason such attacks should occur.
Fire ants can cause devastating personal injury and wrongful death. Billy is correct — Fire ants can be controlled. They can, and should be, controlled. Nursing homes, day cares and hospitals should keep their charges safe. Our children, our elderly, our infirm — deserve proper safety and care.