The New Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office has ordered the autopsy of the body of a local fishers’ association chairman who died while inspecting a road construction project, the office has said.
Cheng Kang-chung (鄭康忠), 48, who headed the fisher’s association in the city’s Tamshui District (淡水), is suspected to have been bitten by red imported fire ants, a venomous insect native to South America, while inspecting the construction near a fishing port in the city’s Bali District (八里) on June 3.
He died in a local hospital on Friday last week.
Cheng had a chronic condition that required frequent dialysis and had allergies that put him at risk of complications from allergic reactions, the hospital said.
New Taipei City Red Imported Fire Ant Center executive secretary Hung Sheng-hsiung (洪勝雄) on Tuesday said that the center found 10 anthills close to the site were Cheng was conducting the inspection.
The center has sprayed the area with fipronil and pyriproxyfen, Hung said, adding that it would observe the anthills for at least six months to ascertain whether the measure exterminated the ants.
The center has closed off the sites and requested that construction be halted during the observation period, Hung added.
The ants might have become more aggressive due to external factors, such as heavy rain and construction, Hung said.
Over the past few years, New Taipei City has reduced the area of fire ant infestation from 7,000 to 4,000 hectares, he added.
Bali, as well as the city’s Sansia (三峽), Yingge (鶯歌), Tamsui and Shulin (樹林) districts are focus areas of the center’s efforts, he said.
Prosecutors said that Cheng’s family suspects that his death was due to fire ant bites, adding that it hopes that the autopsy would rule out other possibilities, including death due to COVID-19 infection.
Huang Rong-nan (黃榮南), a professor in National Taiwan University’s entomology department, said that fire ant bites rarely lead to death, adding that New Taipei City and Taoyuan residents should be on the lookout as there are fire ant populations in the two cities.
The bites usually cause swellings, Huang said, adding that people who have been bitten by one or two ants usually do not need treatment.
However, people who have been bitten 10 or more times should immediately seek medical attention.
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