June 6, 2008 -- A Long Island woman was put in a quarantined hospital room Thursday night after emergency workers came to her home and found her skin crawling with nearly invisible parasites that doctors believe are bird mites.
The woman, Nina Bradica, 45, of Levittown, N.Y., called 911 complaining of chest pains. Police and firefighters placed the woman in a protective hazardous-materials suit to transport her to a county hospital.
"She is in stable but less-than-comfortable condition," said Dr. Ken Steier of Nassau University Medical Center. "Based on what was found in her home, this may be a bird mite infestation. We've collected three specimens that appear to be mites and have sent them to the CDC."
Bird mites are tiny parasitic insects about a half a millimeter long and are usually invisible to the the naked eye. People infested with mites break out in red bumps that can cause intense itching and irritation.
Steier said Bradica is in "a clearly marked quarantined room. Those entering must wear caps, gowns, gloves and shoes and no one is permitted to come in direct physical contact with her."
He said there were "no documented cases of bird mites causing severe internal illnesses" but called them a "nuisance that produce extreme itching and scratching. They can live in your clothes, sheets, linens and closets. They don't really suck your blood, but live on the skin."
Steier said there was a nest of wild birds on the roof of Bradica's house that connected to the woman's bathroom through a vent.
"Mites are ubiquitous in wild birds of all types," the doctor said. "They live on birds and when the birds leave their nests they look for a mammal host; sometimes those mammals are humans."
She is being treated with "intravenous fluids, local skin care and benedryl for the itching."
When contacted by ABC News, Bradica referred calls to her lawyer, Kenneth Mollins.
Mollins said Bradica was a tenant in the home, which records indicate is owned by Louis and Nancy Demetro.
The lawyer said the home was divided into two apartments with another individual living in the other apartment.
Mollins said his client had complained for months to the landlord about the infestation and had shown the mites to an exterminator.
"She doesn't plan on moving back into house," he said.
County public health officials will not characterize the infestation until tests confirm the bugs are actually bird mites.
"Objects that appeared to be mites were collected and sent to a lab," said Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, the Nassau County Commissioner of Health.
"It is still unknown what is really there. Out of that concern, we will act with caution. We still don't know what we're dealing with here," she said.
Carney said investigators will be looking at the home to determine if there was a bird's nest on the roof and if that was the cause of the infestation.
"Presumably, if there is a nest in the home, the potential for mites is there."
Carney said that the infestation appeared to be localized to Bradica's home and there was "no public threat and no need for alarm."
She said Bradica's neighbors had not been warned of any potential threat.