Deaths due to severe wasp stings raise alarm

Updated: 2013-09-27 01:48

By Kang Ruoming in Xi'an and Jin Zhu in Beijing (China Daily)

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Medical experts called for public awareness of the danger of wasps after stings claimed 19 lives within three months in Ankang, Shaanxi province.

Guo Dongyang, a doctor in the nephrology department of the General Hospital of Chengdu Military Region of the PLA, said on Thursday the death rate for people stung by wasps is relatively high in China as many are in remote rural areas and cannot receive timely treatment.

"People being severely stung by wasps may suffer renal failure, liver failure and cardiac injury and may die within one or two hours without timely treatment," he said.

Wasps are common in the country in autumn but most people lack sufficient awareness to avoid them, which poses great potential danger, he said.

By Thursday, hospitals in Ankang, Shaanxi province have received 583 patients who had been stung by wasps over three months, and 19 died, the city government said in a news release. Some 70 are hospitalized, and 494 have been cured.

Those affected mostly lived in rural and remote mountainous regions, according to the city government.

Similar incidents also caused seven deaths and more than 100 injuries in Hanzhong and Shangluo, both in Shaanxi province, this year, Huashang Daily reported on Thursday.

"Incidents of being stung by wasps appear among locals every autumn in the province, especially in its mountainous areas. But such incidents have risen gradually in recent years since the number of wasps increased when the local ecological environment improved," said Zhao Fang, a city government official in Ankang.

Chen Changlin, a farmer in Ankang, has to undergo regular dialysis to remove toxic substances from his bloodstream since he suffered acute renal failure after wasps stung him on Saturday.

"I was farming at the time and rushed to help a mother and her son, who were surrounded by wasps nearby. But the wasps stung me for nearly three minutes, and I had to run more than 200 meters away to escape," Chen was quoted by Huashang Daily as saying on Thursday.

Both the mother and son died, he said.

Mu Conghui, a 55-year-old farmer, who was stung by wasps in August, has since been unable to control her bladder even after receiving treatment in the city hospital for one month, according to the report.

"I was wearing long sleeves and long pants at the time but was still stung everywhere on my head, arms and legs. The doctor told me there were more than 200 wounds all over my body," she said.

Footage from the Shaanxi Television Station on Tuesday showed that there are many large wasp nests on trees and even on the ground hidden in bushes in Ziyang county, Ankang.

Such nests pose great danger to passersby as the insects are easily disturbed and will start to attack when someone even speaks loudly nearby, the report said.

"Wasps appear in southern parts of the province, especially in August and September every year," Zeng Fei, a county official in charge of harmful biology prevention and control was quoted as saying. "We already warned local people to keep away from them. But since some of their nests are hidden and hard to see, it is still quite dangerous."

Authorities in Ankang have set up hotlines to provide professional services to remove the wasp nests, he said.

The city government said more than 300 wasp nests have been removed since July.

Guo, the nephrology doctor, said many such cases are avoidable but many fieldworkers are attacked by wasps due to their low awareness of prevention.

"They should receive training on protecting themselves," he said.

Similar training should also be given for urban residents as many now spend their holidays in rural areas, he added.

Qin Zhen, a resident of Xi'an, the capital of Shaanxi province, was stung by wasps when he visited farmland in Ankang in early September.

"It was my first time to be stung by wasps," he said. "Now I am very afraid of them and won't go to rural areas."