Washington DC is suffering an itch mite infestation

Washington DC is suffering an itch mite infestation
Everything from haemorrhoid cream to vodka proposed to ease the itch

Washington DC continues to make people’s skin crawl.

Just when they thought they were safe from the swarm of cicadas, residents have been experiencing mysterious bug bites leaving distinctively itchy welts all over their skin.

The search for whodunnit went viral after people began posting images of the bites on the Facebook group Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through Covid-19 around 25 July.

Arlington County’s Department of Human Services’ assistant director Kurt Larrick told The Independent they have a prime suspect – pyemotes, a type of oak leaf itch mite – but that they’re still monitoring and investigating.

“Tough to find a definitive cause with bites you don’t notice and the bug is long gone (eg, not attached like a mature tick),” he said.

The microscopic mites feed on the cicada eggs, which were left behind in their billions after Washington was recently overrun by the screeching insects.

Since bugs began chomping on people, especially if they’ve been sitting beneath oak trees, the Facebook group has been inundated with people looking for relief.

“Has anyone found any relief that works from these oak mite bites?” wrote one member of the group. “I am being tortured by the itch and Benadryl isn’t cutting it. I don’t want to scratch and risk infection. I have bites all over my neck, collarbone and breast area. Not sure how it even happen.”

One facebook user recommended tree oil to reduce itching, while another advocated haemorrhoid cream with lidocaine.

There have been hot spoons, hairdryers, and fresh aloe proposed, while one Facebook user recommend a healthy dose of vodka, though doesn’t clarify if it should be administered topically or internally.

Mr Larrick said people should consult their health care provider for any concerning skin irritation, but that there were some quick fixes to ease the pain.

“Our continuing advice is prevention – FDA registered repellant and proper dress, and treatment for itchiness – Benadryl and hydrocortisone,” Mr Larrick said.

Gene Kritsky, dean of behavioural and natural sciences at Mount St Joseph University, told The Washington Post the mites infestation would eventually end once they were done with the eggs laid during the surge of Brood X cicadas this summer.

“I want to let people know they’re not crazy,” Kritsky said. “It’s a phenomenon related to cicadas being there, and it will dissipate. And eventually, you won’t have it next year, because the cicadas will not be emerging.”


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