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55-year-old man dies after being stung by hornets in Mumbai park

The victim—Pankaj Mafatlal Shah–a retiree with acute spondylitis, was unable to escape because of his hunch after being attacked by the hornets.

mumbai Updated: Jun 30, 2018 12:04 IST
Sadaguru Pandit and Badri Chatterjee
Sadaguru Pandit and Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Mumbai,hornets,wasps
Hornets belong to a subset of the wasp family. Experts believe that the sting of the Vespa species can be fatal, depending on the number of bites and the victim’s bodily reaction. (HT Photo )

Bitten by a colony of hornets while taking a walk in Veer Savarkar Garden, a 55-year-old physically challenged man from Borivli, died within 12 hours on Wednesday. Two other men who rushed to his help also suffered multiple injuries.

Claiming that such an incident has not been recorded before, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) insecticide department said the insects were hornets – a subset of the wasp family. Although not confirmed, BMC insecticide officer Rajan Naringekar said it could be Vespa, an aggressive form of wasps, found commonly around SGNP, Borivli, Aarey and Goregaon. They had built their nest in the bark of a tree in the garden.

On Wednesday, when the victim—Pankaj Mafatlal Shah–a retiree, who was diagnosed with acute spondylitis at 25, was attacked by the hornets, he was unable to escape because of his hunch. “Spondylitis forced him to walk with a hunch for more than 30 years,” said his brother Kirit Shah. Ramanuj Dad, 32, and Marystat Romana, 27, who were also taking a stroll nearby, rushed to his help. All three suffered multiple stings and were taken to Karuna Hospital.

Shah’s condition worsened as his blood pressure dropped critically. “Two of the three patients suffered minor stings and were discharged. However, Shah who was in the ICU, passed away as the poison started affecting multiple organs,” said Dr Ravi Bhatnagar, medical director, Karuna Hospital. His body was taken to Bhagwati Post -mortem Centre.

Although forensic experts confirmed that Shah was stung, it is yet to be confirmed if the hornet venom caused his death. “Shah’s body tissue samples were sent to Sir JJ Hospital for histopathology and blood samples were sent to Forensic Science Laboratory. After we get both reports, we will know the amount of poison there was in his body and if it caused his death,” said a forensic expert from Bhagwati Post-mortem Centre. The garden was closed on Friday morning by BMC officials.

“Our field staff fogged the site, and ensured all wasps and flies in the area were killed. The cavity in the tree was filled up. We will open the park after surveying the area for a day or two,” Naringrekar said.

The hornets had built their nest in the bark of a tree in Borivli’s Veer Savarkar garden. ( Pramod Thakur/ HT Photo )

Experts like Dr Thresiamma Varghese, research associate, Centre for Ecological Sciences , under Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, who confirmed that insects belong to the Vespa species, believe that Vespa’s stings can be fatal depending on the number of bites and the victim’s bodily reaction.

Dr Freston Marc Sirur, MD, Emergency Medicine, said “The immunological reaction can lead to swelling of the lower layer of skin, low blood pressure and shock, which affects all major organs.” Wildlife biologists expressed concern at how the nest of hornets was sealed off. “Our hospitals should be equipped to handle allergic reactions induced by wasps,” said Anand Pendharkar, wildlife biologist. He said wasps do not attack unless there’s a threat to their nest.

First Published: Jun 30, 2018 08:10 IST

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