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Fire ant bites could see Australians develop severe allergic reactions if pests become endemic

Melanie Vujkovic

4 Mar 2024

Fire ant bites - image by: Qld Department of Agriculture and Fisheries

National allergy bodies are calling for a more widespread and immediate eradication program for fire ants, with fears up to 174,000 people could develop severe allergic reactions to the insect's bite if it became endemic in Australia.

A Senate inquiry into Red Imported Fire Ants (RIFA) is underway, with public hearings in Brisbane and Newcastle today and tomorrow, examining the expected costs and impacts of the pest on human health, social amenity, agriculture, infrastructure and the environment.

Already, about $1 billion is being spent in an attempt to eradicate the ants from Queensland by 2032, with the pest also recently discovered in northern New South Wales.

In its submission to the enquiry, the National Allergy Centre of Excellence (NACE) and Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) predicted the "staggering" potential health impacts RIFA could have on the country —  based on international studies — if it became endemic.

NACE insect allergy researcher Professor Sheryl van Nunen said if the rapid spread continued, it could lead to serious health risks, and put pressure on an already burdened health system.

Read full article on ABC news

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