Haas Student Critically Ill After Being Attacked by Fire Ants

Haas Middle School eighth-grader Cameron Espinoza is fighting for his life after he was stung by fire ants during a middle school football game Wednesday night.

It happened on the field at Haas Middle School, which school administrators say was inspected everyday of the week for signs of fire ants, and that none were discovered.

Kiii News Reporter Michael Gibson went Live from Haas Middle School with more details.

3News cameras had no problem finding fire ant mounds all over the field, from goal line to goal line. Once the mounds were discovered, a Corpus Christi Independent School District board member was notified and decided to come out and see for herself.

"Oh my God, Michael. You can't tell me they didn't see them," CCISD board member Lucy Rubio said.

Rubio was shocked at the amount of fire ant mounds that were on the football field Thursday. She plans to call on the district to completely close off the field and playground area until the ants are killed. She also wants the district to inspect every football field before anymore games are played on them.

District officials said the coaches had inspected the field all week and never saw ants. The field was mowed early Wednesday, and no fresh mounds were spotted.

Some parents are now worried for the safety of their kids who play on the field.

"She already has asthma as it is, so I don't need anything else adding to it," said Rose Menchaca, a parent of a Haas Middle School student.

So what if you are stung by fire ants and don't know if you are allergic? Well, you would be among the majority of people, because most don't know that they are allergic until they actually get stung.

The best thing you can do, as Kiii News Reporter Rudy Trevino found out, is be prepared, just in case.

Fire ants can bite and sting numerous times. The insect attaches to the skin with its mandibles by pulling and then pinching the skin, giving the victim multiple injections of their powerful venom.

Now, amplify that by hundreds of stings, and you have a potentially life-threatening injury.

"If you have a severe reaction, the patient may start having some difficulty breathing. They may have a noise in their throat that sounds like a little whistle as they breath in and out," said Dr. Wesley Stafford, an allergy specialist. "They may have wheezing, especially if they have asthma, and then if it gets bad, they may have cardiovascular involvement where their blood pressure drops out and the patient can literally go into shock."

Stafford said fire ant venom contains several allergenic proteins, which are mainly responsible for anaphylaxis in patients who are allergic. He said the Texas legislature recently passed a law giving school nurses the authority to stock their medicine cabinets with so called EpiPen -- basically injections with epinephrine, a form of adrenaline.

"In the past, kids who had allergies have had EpiPens at school so that the adrenaline could be given to them if they got a bee sting or if they accidentally ate a peanut, or if they were having a systemic allergic reaction from anything," Stafford said. "But the problem in the past has been, if you have a reaction to a peanut for the first time, the odds are pretty good it's going to be at school, and you don't even know you have the allergy; or, if you get stung and have your first reaction at school, they have to have some way of treating that as quickly as they can."

Stafford said that if you have any kind of allergies to either fire ants or to any other stinging insect, such as bees or wasps, he recommends always having your doctor's number handy, and an EpiPen.

However, if the victim experiences shortness of breath or dizziness, call 911 right away.


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