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The red fire ant is now spread throughout the southern United States. Infestations have been reported in California and New Mexico. It is believed they originally came to the United States in the 1930s through the port in my home city of Mobile, Alabama Cargo ships unloaded goods infested with the ants.

Fire ants are most likely found outdoors, but they will come inside if it necessary for them to survive. In a few instances, large numbers of ants have been found to nest in nursing homes and hospitals. There have been cases of stinging ants in the beds of patients causing severe injuries and death. I handled such a case a couple of years ago. My client was bed bound, could not get out of the bed while the attack occurred and had hundreds of stings. She went into shock but luckily survived after going through a long and arduous recovery period. It can be the hospital’s or nursing home’s neglect to fail to protect patients from this danger. A pest control company also may be engaged to provide services to these facilities and improperly or negligently provide that service resulting in infestations inside.

These fire ants and other ant species easily move through small cracks and crevices in foundations and around windows. They need to be controlled first outdoors. If not controlled outside, they can easily move inside. Facilities should train all its staff members to look for indications of ants as well as having a professional pest control operator. The staff should keep watch on a daily basis. It is recommended that the professional pest control operator do weekly inspections as these insects can rapidly appear and even re-infest an area. Rooms should be kept as clean as possible and food trays, tables, and crumbs on the floor should be cleaned thoroughly. Those patients who are incapable of self- turning should be turned frequently and the staff trained to look for ants.

Day care centers also present a prime area for fire attacks to attack. Children are curious and often are not aware of the danger of fire ants. Fire ants sting more children each year than all other insects combined. Fortunately, most children are not allergic to fire ant stings and eventually recover on their own. For some children, fire ant stings represent a real danger that may require emergency medical attention. Fire ant bites can cause painful blisters and even serious medical problems.

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.

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