A Texas middle school football player was not able to complete what would be the final football game of his life after suffering an allergic reaction to ant bites during a halftime huddle. Cameron Espinosa, an eighth-grader at Paul R. Haas Middle School in Corpus Christi, Texas was pronounced dead on Monday, September 16, several days after being bitten multiple times by ants while playing a home game on the school field.
On September 11, the 12-year-old football player was standing on the sidelines and started yelling “Ants! Ants!” according to Lorette Williams, director of communications for the school district to the Daily News. The coach of the Haas Middle School football team told the boy to “get a water bottle and spray yourself off” before Espinosa started yelling out in pain, said Principal Lynda Ann De Leon, to KZTV, a CBS-affiliate. While Espinosa drenched himself with water, he collapsed on the field, losing consciousness, as the paramedics were called to rush the young boy to Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi.
Espinosa remained in critical condition for several days while his mother kept the community up to speed on the status of his condition via Facebook posts. Less than a week later, the boy’s condition severely deteriorated, and he was declared dead early Monday morning. The unexpected death of the young football player left his teammates, classmates, and the school faculty mourning the loss of a star.
Haas Middle School cancelled all extracurricular and athletic events for the rest of the week and has grief counseling services available for students and staff on hand. The Texas middle school has decided to honor the memory of the 12-year-old by creating ribbons with Espinosa’s jersey number and the colors of the school, and passing them out to studnets and faculty. "Students and teachers have been wearing green and white ribbons with the number 66 on them," said Williams, USA Today reports.
The sudden death of the football player led Hector Salinas, a school board member, to survey the football field, where he found more than 20 ant piles. Salinas is outraged at the insect infestation and believes the football coaches should have scanned the field before letting the students play. "If in fact the coaches there knew that there was a problem with ants before… Then you know what? It should have been taken care of," he said KRIS-TV, a local station.
"It really bothers me because here we got a young kid that is fighting for his life and... I don't know... Could this been prevented?" Salinas asked, prior to Espinosa’s death. Espinosa was unaware that he was allergic to ants and the school district apparently had no record of allergies on the young boy.
The Driscoll Children’s Hospital would not provide further information on Espinosa’s death when contacted by the Daily News on Monday afternoon. Based on the football player’s reaction, the ants that attacked him were most likely fire ants.
“In some patients only one sting could trigger a life-threatening reaction,” said Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist with the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic and immediate past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Daily Mail reports. Fire ants are usually red or black and are prominent in the southern United States. In that region, they are considered to be a significant health hazard and are the number one cause of insect stings. These ants inject a venom that can provoke an allergic reaction of a single itchy red bump or anaphylactic shock — and are the only poisonous ants.
More than 500,000 Americans are sent to the emergency rooms every year due to insect stings, with a minimum of 50 insect-related deaths incidents occurring per year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).