Beware: hornet attacks on the rise

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Beware: hornet attacks on the rise

CHANGWON, South Gyeongsang - A recent increase in serious hornet attacks on people working in mountains and fields, including some deadly incidents, has raised alarms among rescue personnel, especially because more people will be participating in outdoor activities during the Chuseok holiday next month.

Rescue authorities said a 49-year-old man was attacked while weeding in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang, on Monday.

“We got a call from his sister asking for help and went there only to find that he was already dead,” said a spokesman from an emergency rescue service.

The local police concluded that the man must have disturbed a hive, prompting the deadly attack.

A similar accident occurred to a 60-year-old man in Cheonan, South Chungcheong last month, South Chungcheong authorities said. He was attacked by hornets while working in a field on July 21 and sent to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.

Polices and local emergency departments are concerned that the number of victims will escalate, as people visit their ancestors’ graves for weeding in a preparation for the holidays.

Chuseok falls on Sept. 22 this year and the national holiday period stretches for three days. The holiday celebrates the fall harvest and is also meant to pay respects to ancestors. Many Koreans travel across the country to visit their hometowns.

The Busan Fire Department said that so far this year, it had responded to 733 incidents to remove hives. It also said it had given first aid to 145 victims.

The South Gyeongsang Fire Department said it had rescued 185 residents who were attacked by hornets so far this year. The department said 80 percent of incidents were during warm-weather months, noting that the population of hornets grows, and their toxicity is stronger, in the summer.

Statistics from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) show that the number of rescue teams mobilized to remove hives nationwide has been increasing, from 10,623 in 2006 to 21,682 in 2007. In 2008, there were 30,676 incidents.

NEMA warned the public to be cautious of hornets, especially with the approach of the Chuseok. They advised people to avoid using cosmetics or perfumes during outdoor activities because they can stimulate hornets.

When hornets are discovered, people are advised to stay away from the hives or to lower their position.

The rescue agency said prompt treatment is crucial. The hornet’s needle can and should be extracted by pushing the skin with a thin board such as a credit card.

By Hwang Sun-yoon []
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