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7 January 2019 04:21 pm

Myth Busting: Deadly ants in Qatar—do they really exist?!

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Have you ever heard about "black ants" in Qatar and how they cause an alarm every time their 'fatal bite' bring uneasiness to their victims? If you're curious enough, then make sure to keep on scrolling as we've prepared a comprehensive report of everything that you need to know about these so-called 'summer pests.'

Ant allergy is a rare clinical problem that ranges from local to systemic reaction and life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Different types of ants, including the imported fire ants, are considered health-hazard in many parts of the world.

While these 'small but terrible' creatures look identical to typical breeds of ant that we see on a normal day, it has been found that a few ant species can inflict poisonous bites that can prove fatal for a full-grown adult and sometimes, children.

Considering that Qatar is situated in the warm Eastern Arabian peninsula, it's not anymore surprising to know that black ants are very common in this part of the globe throughout the year.

Deadly ants in Qatar

Which ant specie in particular?

Widely-distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where it inhabits savannas and open forests; the Samsum Ant notably prefers caving in man-impacted habitats, such as human settlements, rubbish dumps and waste ground. It is a general scavenger but will attack other insects and has a painful sting.

Measuring four to six millimetres in length, the Samsum Ant thrives in humid soil conditions and scientists believe it has evolved from a granivorous, grain-eating, diet to become omnivorous as a mechanism to adapt to different environments.

The Samsum Ant is also known for its scientific name Pachycondyla sennaarensis.

Deadly ants in Qatar

When and where in Qatar are they most prevalent?

According to the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), most infestation occurs during the summer due to warmer weather—thus its nickname 'summer pest.'

"A total of 105 patients attended to the Emergency Department of the Hamad General Hospital following Samsum Ant stings in a period of one year where it was found to be a frequent summer problem," revealed a statement.

There was also a thread which says that these ants can be found mostly in public parks during the winter season where they nest mainly on green grasses and tree branches so if you ever have plans on jogging outdoors in the next few days to come, see to it that leaning and sitting on the above-mentioned spots are the last thing on your mind.

It's always best to rest on the benches (which are widely available in public parks in Doha) in order to avoid getting bitten.

Deadly ants in Qatar

Who's at risk?

The higher prevalence in females was attributed to more exposure of housewives but children, as per experts, are also often the target of black ants because they spend much of their time playing on the ground and shoeless.

What are the symptoms to watch out for?

Being the premiere place for everything health-related in Qatar, the HMC always watches out for anaphylactic shock signs and symptoms whenever cases involving black ant bites are referred to them.

“While these symptoms might not be serious or life-threatening, it is important to treat the patient promptly, especially if they experience breathing difficulties,” said an HMC health expert.

Here's a simplified list of the symptoms to watch out for once bitten by the Samsum Ant:

  • Itchiness and redness of skin
  • A lump that grows in no time
  • Swelling of lips and face
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Asthma (and more respiratory problems)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitation
Deadly ants in Qatar

What should we do once bitten?

No one fancies the thought of getting a deadly ant bite but the quickest and most effective way to cure such is through an EpiPen (anti-venom) injection. EpiPen kits can be bought anywhere in the world and it doesn't take much space on your handbag so make sure to be never without it in case of ant sting.

The past incidents that were reported in Doha aren't EpiPen-equipped that's why the victims had to be rushed to the HMC before the poison spreads in the body.

HMC personnel are estimating that the Samsum Ant bite is capable of killing its victim if not given immediate medical attention within 24 hours.

So what's the best thing to do if you don't have an EpiPen kit and got bitten by a black ant?

Go to the HMC to get yourself treated!

“If there is not a severe allergic reaction, home-based remedies such as applying a cold compress over the area for 20 minutes to prevent itching is recommended. Taking an antihistamine is also a good option, especially if there is minor pain, itching, or a localised allergic reaction,” suggested an insect bite HMC expert.

Any recorded casualties so far?

Though nothing's confirmed yet in Qatar, it was reported that on April 2018, a Keralite woman was reportedly dead after being bitten by a "poisonous black ant" at her residence in Riyadh. She underwent treatment, her relatives said.

The Samsum Ant has also been linked with several deaths in Qatar's neighbouring country, the UAE, over recent years.

Deadly ants in Qatar

How to get rid of Samsum ants?

Black ants, deadly ones or not, usually cave on residences throughout the year and there's only one basic way to avoid them: a well-sanitised home.

The HMC shared: "These ants are attracted by the smell of food so it is important to keep the kitchen clean, to cover cooked food properly, and to store sugary foods in airtight containers. Proper food storage and regular and thorough cleaning of the kitchen and other areas of the home where food is prepared or consumed will help deter ants. It is important to be proactive and diligent, quickly cleaning spills with soap or vinegar to help eliminate food odors."

Here are a few more sanitation tips to keep in mind:

  • Professional pest control and eradication
  • Don’t walk barefoot
  • Cover exposed skin using long sleeves, pants, or a hat
  • Use insect repellant creams
Deadly ants in Qatar

Samsum venom an effective painkiller?

What's surprising is, the deadly ant venom could soon be put to a use as a powerful painkiller according to Saudi scientists. "We believe that the poison from the Samsum Ant could be harvested and used to make a cheap alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs currently on the market."

The researchers are still seeing to it if the venom could be a cheaper alternative to other anti-inflammatory drugs.

To know more about the Hamad Medical Corporation, check out their website and social media links below!

About the Hamad Medical Corporation


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