18 killed in deadly hornet attacks in Chinese city

It sounds like the tagline for a really bad apocalypse movie, but Chinese newspapers are reporting that deadly hornet attacks are on the rise in the city of Ankang, in Shaanxi province. 18 have died, and many have suffered severe injuries from hundreds of stings.

According to The Guardian:

The insects' highly toxic stings can lead to anaphylactic shock and renal failure. An official from Ankang's disease control centre urged people to seek medical help if they received more than 10 stings, and warned that emergency treatment was required for those stung more than 30 times.

What caused the sudden upswing in the hornet attacks? No one is sure, but authorities have had to remove nearly 300 nests from the city. According to the South China Morning Post:

One patient being treated in an Ankang hospital suffered acute renal failure after hornets stung him on the head and legs, the report said. He claimed the hornets chased him over a distance of more than 200 metres.

A 55-year old woman from the same village told the newspaper that she was stung more than 200 times. She had been hospitalised for almost a month and was still incontinent, the report said.

Many of the attacks have been in rural areas near the city, but they are also hitting Ankang itself. It's not clear whether there's a link between all of the nests in the city and the hornet violence. Some have suggested that an unusually hot summer allowed more hornets to breed. But it's also possible that the hornets have been driven out of their usual habitats and are taking up residence in cities — which means humans are more likely to stumble on a nest and trigger a major attack.

Read more via Salon and The Guardian