Photo/IllutrationHirotaka Ando created this website to provide true information about fire ants. (Provided by Hirotaka Ando)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A doctor is trying to correct misperceptions about fire ants whose invasion of Japan has conjured up images of death and destruction.

Hirotaka Ando, who works in the Emergency Department of the Nagoya Ekisaikai Hospital, has set up a website to provide information about the insects’ poison and how to treat people who receive the painful stings of the ants.

The site (http://www.nagoya-ekisaikaihosp.jp/?p=6766) has received more than 200,000 views.

“A lot of people mistakenly believe the fire ant’s toxin is deadly, but the venom itself cannot cause death,” said Ando, 39.

The site was introduced last year at a time when fire ants, which are native to South America, were being discovered across Japan.

“I wanted to ease concerns so people will not feel unnecessary fear,” Ando said about the reason he opened the website.

Although the site is intended for health-care providers, the content is easy to understand for non-medical people.

It suggests, for example, to cool the area that has been stung by a fire ant.

It also provides basic knowledge about anaphylactic shock, an acute allergic reaction that could be fatal after a fire ant sting.

“We should be careful of anaphylaxis (not the toxin itself),” Ando said. “Scant information was previously provided on what will happen when one is victimized (by fire ants).”

Although the ant species cannot move actively during winter, it can survive the coldest months under the ground. Fire ants are expected to become active in early spring, and the site provides information on how to take countermeasures.

The website states that 50 percent of residents of regions in the United States where fire ants live are stung at least once a year, indicating the species is not as dangerous as many people believe.

Ando read 20 academic papers in the United States, where advanced fire ant research is carried out, for the latest information on the site.

According to the Environment Ministry, the first batch of fire ants was found in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, in May 2017, followed by discoveries in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, as well as Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

By Dec. 25, fire ants had been found in 12 prefectures on 26 occasions.