State lawmakers in Georgia are furious about the criminally negligent actions that took place shortly before an elderly man passed away within a Decatur veterans administration hospital earlier this month. Nearly three weeks ago, Laquna Ross went to the VA hospital in order to visit her father who was suffering from terminal cancer. After arriving at the hospital, nurses informed Ross that her father had been found dead the day before, but when Ross reached out to hold her father’s hand, she noticed that he flinched in pain. Immediately after realizing that her father was still alive and had a swollen hand, she found hundreds of ants crawling about within her father’s room. According to Ross, the ants were crawling everywhere, including the walls and ceiling. Not long afterward, Ross’s father, Joe Marrable, awakened before lifting his shirt to reveal a little more than 100 ant bites. Apparently, Marrable was neglected by doctors, nurses and hospital staff for at least two days while his motionless body sustained numerous ant bites within his hospital bed.
A day before Ross arrived at the Decatur VA hospital to see her dad, nurses finally discovered the massive amount of ants covering her father’s seemingly lifeless body. Without checking for vital signs, the nurses assumed Marrable had died due to the insects that were clearly gravitating onto his body. While Ross was relieved that her father was not dead, she was understandably angry over the medical staff’s clear failure to care for her father. After being grilled by Ross over the situation, staff members claimed that they thought her father had died due to the insects that had been found congregating on his body. Unsurprisingly, this excuse did not bring Ross satisfaction, and several top officials working at the VA hospital have been dismissed or reassigned over this fiasco. Three other patients in separate rooms also sustained ant bites. Sadly, Ross’s father died a day after the ordeal.
Although the species of ant that repeatedly bit Marrable was not mentioned, several common ant pest species in the southeast US are well known for infesting hospitals. A plethora of scientific literature states that Pharaoh ants are the most common and most threatening of all ant pest species that frequently invade hospitals. Pharaoh ants carry and spread well over a dozen disease pathogens, such as Salmonella and Streptococcus pyogenes. One study found that several acrobat ant species, Argentine ants, ghost ants and big-headed ants frequently infest hospitals and nursing homes in the southeast US. However, none of these ant species are known for stinging humans, and bites are exceptionally rare, which does not make sense since Ross’s father sustained more than 100 bites.
Pharaoh ants were the most likely culprits, as these ants have infested hospitals repeatedly for decades in the southeast, and they are known for extracting water from the flesh wounds of hospital patients. While Pharaoh ants do not sting and almost never bite, one study found that large congregations of Pharaoh ants may bite humans under certain circumstances. As it happens, Pharaoh ants often infest hospital bedding where they are known for inflicting repeated bites to immobile hospital patients. Considering this, it seems nearly certain that Pharaoh ants were the insects that had been biting Marrable shortly before he died.
Have you ever sustained ant bites in your sleep?