A week after a 13-year-old Texas boy suffered from a deadly allergic reaction to ant bites during a football game, the local superintendent is calling for a review of the school's EpiPen policy, an internal review of field conditions and plans to launch a third-party investigation the shocking incident.
Ants were already a known problem for the Corpus Christi Independent School District before middle-schooler Cameron Espinosa died last week. In fact, the fields are checked twice a week with a granular treatment, Superintendent Scott Elliff said at a press conference Wednesday.
Last Tuesday and Wednesday, the football coaches assessed the field and deemed it safe to play, according to Elliff. He said the field was mowed and no ant mounds were reported at the time.
Elliff said the school district has consulted with experts and determined that Cameron, a student at Paul R. Haas Middle School, died as a result of a fire ant attack. Cameron was huddled with his team on the field when he collapsed.
But the school district was unaware of Cameron's allergy, Elliff said. And while coaches are trained in basic medical care and used a defibrillator to try to revive him, no one apparently had or used an epinephrine autoinjector — commonly known as an "EpiPen" — to combat the anaphylactic shock the boy went into.
Cameron died five days later at Driscoll Children's Hospital.
"I know that all of us want answers, especially in a tragedy such as this when there seems to be no good answers, but I urge everyone, and I mean everyone, to refrain from jumping to conclusions before having all the facts," Elliff said.
Studies show that 10 to 15 percent of people stung by fire ants have severe allergic reactions to it. Of those individuals, 1 to 2 percent have dangerous systemic reactions that can result in death, according to Bayer, which makes anti-fire ant products.
At Wednesday's press conference, Elliff announced that he plans to launch an independent third party investigation by next week to examine current school policies, look into last Wednesday's incident, and provide the district with unbiased recommendations on how to move forward.
"Loss of life for a student, any student, is cause for grave concern and warrants a serious inquiry into policies and procedures the implementation of those procedures," he said.
The district also plans to investigate its current EpiPen policy, which allows only students with doctor's orders to receive EpiPen treatment. Elliff said he would like to require the life-saving devices to be carried in all school first-aid kits.
Elliff is also looking into the logistics of having emergency crews on hand at middle school sports games. There are EMS personnel present at Texas high school football games, but that precaution is not required at middle school games.
He plans to have a full debriefing and plan ready for the upcoming board meeting on Sept. 23.