An elderly man was bitten hundreds of times on his legs and genitals by a swarm of flesh-eating ants as he lay in his hospital bed.
Cornelius Lewis, 76, was in the intensive care unit at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Florida, recovering from an operation to fit a pacemaker the day before the ant attack.
Remarkably, because he was attacked beneath the bed sheets, medical staff didn’t even notice the ants were literally feasting on him until they pulled back the covers hours later.
Lewis remains at Gulf Coast Medical Center and is said to be in a serious condition, although that is related to his previous heart surgery, rather than the ant attack.
According to his son, Mr Lewis was bitten ‘a couple hundred’ times on his legs and genitals by Pavement Ants.
‘He was supposed to be monitored every 10 minutes,’ Neil Lewis told Florida website Newspress.com.
‘My mom was there, and they didn’t give her any information.
‘They said, “Let’s just get him out of the room.” And my father was so exhausted he didn’t have the ability to complain.’
After the attack, Mr Lewis said his father was moved to another room but that it, too, was infested with ants.
Lee Memorial Health System, which runs the hospital, says it is taking preventive steps at their hospitals to stop any repeat of the incident.
‘We have confirmed there were ants,’ said Karen Krieger, director of public relations at Lee Memorial Health System.
She added: ‘There were no reports of other patients being bitten by ants and Gulf Coast is the only hospital with an ant problem.’
The company’s other premises at Lee Memorial Hospital, Cape Coral Hospital and Health Park are now being treated by pest control experts.
The intensive care unit at Gulf Coast Medical Center has been evacuated, sprayed and treated and exterminators will check for the insects every three days.
Rooftops and exteriors are being sprayed weekly. This will continue until there is no ant sightings for 30 days.
It is understood the checks for ants previously took place on a monthly basis, which indicates the hospital knew it had a problem with the ants.
A pest control expert in Florida, a hot and sticky climate that is a perfect breeding ground for insects, told WINK News that Pavement Ants, which are the type believed to have bitten Lewis, don’t usually attack because they generally live outside.
‘Pavement ants are omnivores,’ said Allen Fugler Jr.
‘Every pest needs food, water and harborage. If lacking in one of those three, they will aggressively seek out a food source, water or a place to live.’