A teenager from Spotsylvania County seems to have fallen victim to the giant bear cunning plant.
The plant, first identified positively in Virginia last month, excretes juice, which can cause skin burns, blistering and permanent scarring. The juice can also cause blindness if it touches the eyes.
Alex Childress, a 17-year-old graduate of Spotsylvania High School, who plans to attend Virginia Tech this fall, worked on a summer job with a local landscaper on Tuesday when he came across the plant.
He told his parents that he had stumbled on Tuesday at The Free Lance-Star's Print Innovators plant on Belman Road in Frederick's Battlefield Industrial Park when he came across a large plant with white flowery flowers, his father Justin Childress said in an interview on Thursday.
He has a pair of big clippers because he did not think the trimmer would cut the grass, his father said. Alex cut off the grass that resembles the benign and luscious tip of Queen Anne, and threw it into a wooded area. But it brushed his face and his arm.
His father said his son felt the burning sensation almost immediately, but the teenager was not worried.
Justin Childress said he and his wife had come home around 8 o'clock that night and when they asked what had happened, her son said it was a sunburn.
"It looked like a sunburn," Justin Childress said.
His son told him that his skin peeled off when he took a shower.
His mother, a nurse, looked up the plant online after her son described it. Then they took him to the Spotsylvania Regional Hospital. The doctors decided that he had to be sent to the burn department of the VCU Medical Center in Richmond.
Doctors of the Combustion Department said Alex had suffered second-degree and third-degree burns, Justin Childress said, adding that doctors told his wife that the burns were likely caused by a giant bear claw.
Alex was released from the hospital on Thursday night.
His father said the burns had finally covered at least half of his son's face and spread from his right bicep to his forearm.
Alex treated the ordeal like a soldier, his father said.
This does not surprise Justin Childress, who pointed out that his son played a dislocated kneecap for the Spotsylvania High football team this winter and was told that it would take seven to nine months to heal. But two months later, his son struggled and he finished sixth in the 220 pound weight class. He also ran the track.
"I have to give it to him, he's probably the toughest kid I know," said Justin Childress. "He took it in a good mood."
He said his son's biggest worries are now back to work and whether he will be able to orient himself at Virginia Tech or even attend college in the fall.
Justin Childress said his son's knee injury and now the burns are causing problems with his son's ROTC scholarship and plans to join the US Army. He said that his son needs a medical clearance for physical activity.
The burns from the plant can cause ultraviolet light sensitivity, something Justin Childress said some people for as little as two months, while other symptoms may have been suffering for years.
"It's hard to be in the military when you can not be in the sun," said Justin Childress.
Guy Mussey of the Virginia Cooperative Extension's Spottiesylvania office said he has recently received about a dozen phone calls from people who think they came across the factory, but these reports have turned into "wild goose chases."
He was informed about the situation by a friend of the Childress family. This prompted him to visit Print Innovators to look for the giant hogweed.
"I did not see anything that looked like gigantic bear hunts," Mussey said on Wednesday, adding that he had no clear idea of where the plant could have been on the 11-acre property and that if he had more information, & # 39; I go back.
In June, a homeowner in Clarke County reported a suspected plant that was proving to be the first positive identification of Giant Bear Claw in the state, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Giant Bear Claw is a Tier 1 pest on the VDACS List of Defilements. This means that it is not established in Virginia and the goal is to eliminate it before it establishes itself.
According to a press release from the VDACS, the Giant Bear Claw differs from Virginia Landscapes, although it shares some features with similar-looking plants. It can be confused with such plants as cow parsnips, elderberry, angelica, blooming hemlock and queen Anne lace.
The plant can grow up to 15 feet tall with leaves as tall as 5 feet across.
Anyone who thinks they have found giant hogweed should take a digital photograph of the leaf, stalk and blossom, while keeping a safe distance. Sightings can be reported to the local office of Virginia Cooperative Extension or VDACS.