ATLANTA - Friends and family are mourning the loss of Jenny Pomeroy, who died due to an allergic reaction from a fire ant sting.
Pomeroy went to the pool in her Buckhead condo on Paces Ferry Road after work last week and was stung by a fire ant.
Days later, Pomeroy died in the hospital's intensive care unit from complications caused by anaphylactic shock.
Pomeroy was the president/CEO of Prevent Blindness Georgia. Her coworker, Laurie Irby, told Channel 2's Diana Davis that Pomeroy played a vital role in the organization for 17 years.
"This is just so hard to believe and so unexpected," she said. "It's a real shock. We're still just kind of reeling and figuring out what to do now."
Irby told Davis that Pomeroy knew she was allergic and was hospitalized years ago due to a fire ant sting.
"Jenny knows she was allergic to fire ants and she usually was very aware of her surroundings," said Irby.
Another resident of Paces West Townhomes told Davis she was upset the condo association did not post warning signs.
Fire ant stings usually cause red welts, itching and swelling.
But for those who are allergic, doctors said fire ant stings can cause and sometimes deadly reactions, like the one that killed Pomeroy.
"The signs and symptoms of more severe reactions would be hives, swelling (and) trouble breathing," said Dr. Alan Redding, an allergy specialist for Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. "Not just a large local reaction at the site of the insect sting."
Entomologists said that fire ants are everywhere and can be killed using bait, which is available at home-improvement and hardware stores.
"Epi pens can prevent anaphylactic shock after a sting," said Dr. Wayne Gardner of the University of Georgia. "They should be carried at all times by anyone who has already had one allergic reaction."
Gardner said fire ants have been a problem in Georgia and the Southeast for at least 20 years. They entered the United States in Mobile, Ala. via Brazilian cargo.
Friends of Pomeroy said she was carrying an Epinephrine pen and her husband called 911 immediately after she was stung.
Redding told Channel 2 Action News that a series of shots can prevent allergic emergencies.
"A lot of patients and doctors do not know that fire ant allergy can be cured with allergy shots," he said. "Someone can take allergy shots and within a very short amount of time be desensitized to the fire ant and prevent a serious reaction from ever occurring."