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Back To Vidyya Death By Fire Ant
The Attack Is Not The First Of Its Kind

The Sarasota County, Florida medical examiner's office is investigating the death of 87-year-0ld, Mary L. Morales Gay, who died from over 1600 ant bites last week. Gay was a resident of thes the Quality Health Care Center in North Port, in southeastern Sarasota County about 65 miles south of Tampa.

The official cause of death is pending toxicology tests, but the woman was severely bitten by either fire ants or red ants. The North Port Police Department said she was bitten about 8 a.m. ET last Thursday.

The elderly woman, who suffered from heart disease, did not have an anaphylactic reaction and likely lived for hours after being bitten. The ant bites were on the right side of her chest, upper arm and part of her abdomen and back and appeared to have come over a period of time, Broussard said.

North Port police said Thursday they were joining an investigation by the Department of Children and Families. Details are to become public when the investigation is completed.

Police do not anticipate any criminal charges but are awaiting the autopsy and toxicology reports. The family is talking to an attorney.

Researchers say fire ants are responsible for 10 deaths in indoor attacks since 1989, including two elderly nursing home patients in Mississippi. One died six days after the attack, the other within 13 months. University of Mississippi Medical Center researcher Dr. Richard D. deShazo and his team in Jackson documented the deaths in the "Annals of Internal Medicine" last fall. He said fire ants come indoors seeking food and a friendly environment and can swarm across a person's body within seconds. Nursing home patients can be particularly vulnerable, with the bites adding strain to already impaired systems.

Medical reports say as many as 80 people may have been killed in the country by fire ants.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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