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Spiders can be dangerous problem

| Friday, June 23, 2006

Most outdoor people are aware that there is a tick problem. Ticks are everywhere, and it pays to keep a sharp eye on any bite that may have come from a tick. Biologists now claim that the common dog tick can be a carrier of Lyme Disease. But other insects also can make life miserable, as can spiders.

There are probably close to four dozen spiders that bite hard enough to cause pain. Fortunately, only two, the black widow and the brown recluse, are classified as dangerous. Unfortunately, both species are common in many hunting and fishing areas across the country.

I'm not overlooking the tarantula, since it garners a good bit of publicity. It's a big spider. It has a long, hairy body around 3 inches long and legs that extend up to 10 inches. The big spider can produce a strong bite. Tarantulas are basically found in the southwestern U.S.

The pain from a tarantula bite may increase in intensity over a period of time, and if the victim has a severe reaction medical treatment should be sought. The tarantula is not as dangerous as the black widow or the brown recluse. On the other hand, its bite should not be taken lightly.

The adult black widow has a shiny black body with a red or orange hourglass marking on its belly. The male is the smaller of the two, and even though the female is not quite a half-inch long, it's much more dangerous than the male. The black widow's venom contains neurotoxins that affect the transmission of nerve impulses and can cause death.

Symptoms can include muscle pain, sweating, heavy breathing or difficulty in breathing, and even nausea and vomiting. Also, watch for shock. Wash the wound immediately and get the victim to a hospital.

Black widows can be found locally, but are more common in the southern U.S.

The brown recluse (also known as the fiddle back spider) is most common in the southeastern and south central areas of the United States. It gets its nickname because of a dark brown violin-shaped mark near its head. It is not large, measuring less than a half-inch in length.

Its venom causes local swelling to the bite area and destroys tissues around the bite. This causes a deep sore. The brown recluse rarely causes death.

Since the brown recluse is a night hunter, hikers and campers should take extra precautions after dark to avoid coming in contact with the little spider. Usually, the victim will feel a sharp stinging sensation when a bite occurs. Redness will form around the bite area and in a short time, a blister will appear. This can be followed by severe pain which can last for six to eight hours.

Over the next several days, the victim will experience chills, vomiting, fever, and joint pain. The blister will eventually scab and a deep ulcer will form. The ulcer can hang on for months. Medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible.

The old saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth is a pound of cure," certainly applies to the spider problem. The best prevention is to learn how to distinguish the three spiders mentioned here from other spiders that are harmless. If a bite occurs, capture the spider if possible and take it with the victim to a medical facility. There, positive identifications can be made.

Getting back to ticks, Massachusetts is having a tick problem. In the last two years, the deer population has nearly doubled and no doubt the tick population has grown, as well.

In addition to the well-known Lyme Disease, ticks can carry tularemia and babesiosis. These three are dangerous and sometimes can be fatal.

No matter where you are fishing, camping, hiking or hunting, keep a sharp eye out for ticks and spiders. One bite can not only ruin a vacation but might cause complications for years.

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