Florida has its share of strange animal stories -- from huge pythons to invasive lizards -- but this tale is so common, it's scary. In August, a man from Lakeland named Ronald Resse came home complaining of a spider bite. Six months later, he was dead. It all happened because of the 62-year-old's encounter with a brown recluse.
The Lakeland Ledger reports that Resse was working in an old house, tearing down walls, when he was bitten. A few days after the encounter, he collapsed at home.
The brown recluse's bite typically starts off as a sharp pain that soon fades over into itching and aching. A red or purplish blister forms at the bite, which is surrounded by a ring of whitish discoloration. Within five to seven days, the venom begins to break down the skin, causing an open ulcer. It spreads from there.
Resse's neck wound eventually formed a painful abscess that pressed in on his spinal cord. Resse was in and out of the hospital for months. Procedures didn't alleviate his pain. He developed pneumonia, which led to his death earlier this month.
"We would beg the nurses to give him something," Resse's father told the Ledger. "I was glad when he died. I said, 'Thank you, Lord, for getting him out of his misery.'"
Does this mean you need to add spiders to the list of creepy crawlies that go bump in the Florida night that can possibly knock you off?
Not really. Deaths from spider bites are extremely rare in North America. So rare, in fact, that there aren't very good statistics on the incidents of spider-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control counted only two occasions between 2001 and 2005. Also, deaths are often misattributed to the bug.
In fact, the spider lives only in the Deep South and lower Midwest, although the recluse can also turn up in Florida. Some experts believe thousands of bites each year are skin lesions misdiagnosed by doctors even in regions where the species isn't found. For example, in California, 120 brown recluse bites were logged over the past three years -- but California doesn't have a large brown recluse population.
Resse's case appears to be the sad exception.
Send your story tips to the author, Kyle Swenson.
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