Since July, at least 41 people have died in northern China, and more than 1,600 have been injured after being attacked by hornets.
According to reports, the Shaanxi provincial government said on Wednesday that besides Ankang, where 19 died, adjacent cities of Hanzhong and Shangluo have also recorded a combined death toll of 22 people since July. Ankang lies about 860 miles southwest of Beijing.
Among the injured, 206 people are still being treated, with 37 in critical condition, China News Agency reported. Mu Conghui, a woman who was attacked in Ankang City two months earlier while tending to her millet crop told Xinhua news agency that she is yet to recover.
"The hornets were horrifying," Mu told Xinhua, according to CNN. "They hit right at my head and covered my legs. All of a sudden I was stung and I couldn't move. Even now, my legs are covered with sting holes."
Shunichi Makino, director general of the Hokkaido Research Center for Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute was quoted by CNN as saying that most of the deaths were caused due to allergic reactions to the venom.
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"It's very difficult to prevent the attacks because hornet nests are usually in hidden sites," he said.
The increase in attacks since July has been attributed to a combination of factors, which include changes in the region's weather conditions and ecology. Also, with September and October being the mating and migrating months of hornets, they are believed to be most aggressive during this time. Environmentalists believe urbanization can also be a contributing factor as humans occupy hornets’ habitat.
To combat the problem, police officials and firefighters have been provided with equipment and protective clothing to destroy hives, and according to a government press release cited by CNN, so far, about 710 hives have been destroyed and at least 7 million yuan, or about $1.1 million, have been sent to areas affected by hornet attacks.
Local residents have been advised to wear long-sleeved clothes while outdoors, and the provincial government has warned them against removing hives or trying to drive the hornets away.