A Midwestern metropolis is under attack from an unseen enemy, with victims pouring into doctors’ offices and pharmacies with telltale wounds.
“Right now I don’t even want to go outside to get the paper,” said 82-year-old Chuck Heinz, a retired manufacturing manager whose upper torso is peppered with dozens of welts.
Megan Kinser, who has been attacked at least two dozen times, goes out only when she has to. “It makes me nervous,” said the 32-year-old pharmacy assistant.
The culprit: Pyemotes herfsi, otherwise known as the oak leaf itch mite.
The eight-legged pest causes intense itching in humans. Researchers believe the bug, native to Central Europe, made its U.S. debut in the 1990s in Kansas City and has since spread to many parts of the Midwest, with outbreaks happening every three to eight years. Nearly invisible to the eye at 1/100th of an inch, the mites are back in full force.