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Scorpions flood Egyptian villages after storm, sting and hospitalize hundreds

A scorpion at the Scorpion Kingdom laboratory and farm in Egypt's Western Desert, near the city of Dakhla. (Image credit: Khaled Desouki/AFP via Getty Images)

Scorpions that were flushed from their underground desert homes by recent storms have stung more than 500 people in the governorate of Aswan, in southern Egypt. 

Several days of hail, rainfall and flooding in the region displaced scorpions from their burrows and swept them into close contact with people, according to the Egypt-based news organization Mada. The storms also destroyed buildings, washed out roads, uprooted trees and cut off electricity in parts of Aswan, according to Mada.

Hundreds of those who were stung required hospitalization, and three of those people died on Nov. 13; however, Aswan Gov. Major-General Ashraf Attiya and the acting health minister denied that those deaths were caused by scorpion stings, Mada reported.

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"People who were stung by the scorpions said their symptoms included severe pain, fever, sweating, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle tremors and head twitching," Al Jazeera reported. The governorate of Aswan distributed more than 3,000 doses of antivenom serum, to treat injured people in local hospitals and clinics and to prepare for future incidents, Health Ministry spokesperson Khaled Megahed said in a statement posted to Facebook on Nov. 13.

An estimated 31 species of scorpions live in Egypt, scientists reported in 2017 in the Al Azhar Bulletin of Science. These include fat-tailed scorpions in the genus Androctonus, thought to be the deadliest scorpions on Earth, and so-called deathstalker scorpions (Leiurus quinquestriatus), which are commonly spotted in Aswan and sting dozens of people there each year, according to The New York Times. Approximately 5,000 people worldwide die annually after being stung by a scorpion, according to a 2009 report in the journal Clinical Neurotoxicology

While the idea of a scorpion flood may sound like a biblical plague, the extreme weather events in Aswan that unleashed the scorpions have a modern explanation: climate change, Mahmoud Shaheen, director of the Center for Weather Analysis and Forecasts at the Egyptian Meteorological Authority, told the Egyptian news portal Masrawy.

Originally published on Live Science.

Mindy Weisberger

Mindy Weisberger is a Live Science senior writer covering a general beat that includes climate change, paleontology, weird animal behavior, and space. Mindy holds an M.F.A. in Film from Columbia University; prior to Live Science she produced, wrote and directed media for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Her videos about dinosaurs, astrophysics, biodiversity and evolution appear in museums and science centers worldwide, earning awards such as the CINE Golden Eagle and the Communicator Award of Excellence. Her writing has also appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post and How It Works Magazine.