Beware of Fire Ants at Nursing Homes

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Nursing Home Quality

Whether recovering from a medical procedure or simply too frail to move, the elderly at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the South should take precautions against the potential serious health threat caused by fire ants. Recently, a number of long-term care facilities felt the sting associated with not being prepared for fire ants in their facilities. In June 2004, a Florida jury awarded $1.2 million to a 93-year-old woman who was stung by fire ants in her nursing home bed. And in January 2004, the family of 73-year-old retired postal worker filed suit against a Melbourne, Fla. nursing home because fire ants swarmed the man's bed and, ultimately, caused his death the following day.

Recent studies indicate that fire ants, which infest more than 325 million acres across the southern United States, sting more than 20 million adults and children each year. The elderly are considered especially vulnerable due to their inability to move quickly, or at all, when bedridden. A 2004 study by the Medical University of South Carolina shows that 10 to 15 percent of those stung by fire ants will experience severe localized allergic reactions, with one to two percent experiencing dangerous systemic reactions that, in rare cases, result in death.

Although fire ants traditionally live outside, they will enter buildings when foraging for food. "Unfortunately, long-term care facilities are inviting targets for many pests, including fire ants," comments Frank Meek, Technical Director for Orkin, Inc. "Heavy traffic in and out of multiple entries, combined with busy food service, laundry and storage areas, make effective pest prevention daunting."

Meek offers a few tips on practices to keep fire ants out of nursing homes and long-term care facilities:

  • Make sure that all exterior doors fit tightly and caulk any crevices, especially those on the exterior of the buildings.

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  • Keep floors free of litter, food and other debris.

  • Cover and seal bulk-food storage containers and garbage containers.

  • Do not place storage racks flush against the wall. As a general rule, keep an 18" gap between the wall and the rack.

  • Learn more about treatments control methods.

Preventing fire ants from building mounds on the grounds outside a nursing home facility is another key to safety. There are over 150 products labeled for fire ants, but few offer long-term control. One new way to control fire ants is with a preventative product like TopChoice, available only through lawn care and pest control professionals. "It is a low-dose, granular insecticide that is spread over lawns and plant beds like fertilizer, creating an exclusion zone where no fire ant can survive," explains Gooch. A single professional application both cures existing mounds and prevents new mounds from forming for one year.

"With the health threat they pose to the public, there is an immediate need for a product that offers effective, yearlong fire ant control," says Gooch. "While medical science will continue to treat the after-effects of fire ant stings, TopChoice provides

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