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DHR - SAFETY ALERT MEMO 03-11

DATE: December 30, 2003

INCIDENT TYPE: Insect Bite/Sting

LOCATION: District 6

TYPE OF WORK ACTIVITY: Preparing for Work, Putting on Gloves

THE ACCIDENT: On the morning of December 5th, 2003, a Caltrans maintenance employee working in Kern County was bit or stung on his left index finger by a spider or insect as he placed his work gloves on. On the third day following the bite/sting, the employee felt extreme pain and noticed considerable swelling on his left hand. The employee was taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Antibiotic injections and medication were administered. Further treatment included intravenous antibiotics and surgery to remove dead tissue from the left index finger and hand and several stitches. The employee lost several days of work due to the pain and treatment that was required and continues to recover while on modified duty.

CONCLUSIONS: The bite/sting may have been caused by a Brown Recluse spider. These spiders are golden brown in color and can be identified by the characteristic dark brown to black fiddle-shaped pattern on the head region. These spiders commonly live in basements and garages of houses and can be found hiding between boards, boxes, and old towels and clothes in dark, undisturbed areas. These spiders are not aggressive but they will bite when accidentally trapped, disturbed or threatened. The Brown Recluse can deliver a painless bite or a bite that merely itches and burns at first. Later the surrounding tissue turns red, or black and blue, and begins to disintegrate from the venom, which is designed to digest the victim's flesh. A crusted wound forms and, after the crust falls off, continues to deepen, forming a crater that may take months to heal. Brown Recluse bites are often not diagnosed until considerable tissue damage has taken place, so it's important to inform the doctor if you suspect a bite.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Prevention is the best treatment of all for spider bites. Here are a few things that can help minimize getting bitten:

  • Always shake your clothes before putting them on. This gives the spider a chance to get away from you. They like to hide under clothing or in shoes. Just make a habit of shaking your clothes or turning your shoes over and tapping them a time or two insuring that they are clear of spiders or bugs.
  • Use a broom to keep the spider webs swept away. This discourages the spiders by reducing their food collection ability. Eliminate or reduce bright outdoor lighting that attracts insects (spiders' food supply).
  • Trim weeds and grass from around buildings and remove debris to discourage insects and spiders from living close by.
  • Seal or caulk outside openings that may allow spiders to enter buildings.

If you suspect a spider bite seek medical attention and:

  • Apply ice to decrease pain and swelling,
  • Elevate area if possible above the level of your heart,
  • Wash the area thoroughly with cool water and mild soap, and/or
  • Avoid any strenuous activity because this can spread the spider's venom in your skin.

 

 

HEADQUARTERS OFFICE OF HEALTH AND SAFETY SERVICES (916) 227-2640

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