Kansas Outbreak Caused by European Mite

Pin oaks used in urban landscaping linked to itchy rash in thousands of patients

THURSDAY, Sept. 29 (HealthDay News) -- An outbreak of pruritic rash that affected thousands of Kansas residents in August 2004 was probably caused by a European mite species that preys on midge larvae in oak trees, according to a report in the Sept. 30 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

An estimated 54% of the population of Crawford County, Kansas (2000 population, 38,242) in addition to residents of two nearby Kansas counties and Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas were affected by the rash, which usually occurred on the limbs, face or neck. The rashes typically resolved after a few days of topical steroid treatment, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

The species of mite most likely the cause of the outbreak is Pyemotes herfsi, which was first documented in Europe in 1936. Mild winters and cooler summers, and the use of pin oak trees in landscaping in mainly urban areas, may have contributed to the cases.

The Kansas outbreak might be the "first recorded domestic outbreak involving this mite," according to the report.

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