Tyne & Wear

False widow spider bite 'led to finger amputation'

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Media captionAndrea Wallace described the result of the bite as "like something out of a horror movie"

A woman has had a finger amputated - and told she was within hours of death - after being bitten by a false widow spider.

Andrea Wallace, from Seaham, County Durham, was bitten in a Sunderland park and described the result as "like something out of a horror movie".

The attack left her with flesh-eating bug necrotising fasciitis, which required 10 weeks in hospital.

False widows are the UK's most venomous spider but extreme reactions are rare.

Image caption Andrea Wallace bears a six-inch scar where doctors operated on her left hand

There have been no reported deaths from its bites in the UK and it is understood the spider which bit Ms Wallace contained bacteria that caused the reaction.

Within an hour of arrival at Sunderland Royal Hospital, Ms Wallace went into surgery as doctors tried to prevent the poison spreading through her body.

She was later transferred to the University Hospital of North Durham.

Image caption Andrea Wallace's finger swelled and began oozing pus after the bite

The hairdresser said: "The pain was like nothing I've been through in my life.

"By the time I got to hospital my finger was bursting open, there was pus, it was black. It was a right mess."

"They told me if I had been two hours later I would have been dead. It was scary.

"It was like something out of a horror movie."

Doctors attempted to construct a "false finger" but eventually had to amputate.

The mother-of-four has been left with a six-inch scar, but she said: "Losing my finger was a small price to pay.

"I could've lost my life."

The false widow spider

Image copyright Natural History Museum
Image caption The spiders are thought to have arrived in Britain in fruit from the Canary Islands in the late 19th Century
  • False widow spiders arrived in south west England in the 1870s
  • It is Britain's most venomous spider, although there are no reported deaths from its bite in the UK
  • The spider has distinctive cream markings on its bulbous body and is brown with reddish-orangey legs
  • It eats insects, invertebrates and even other spiders
  • It prefers warm, dark places
  • There have been no reported deaths from its bite in the UK, they are not considered aggressive and generally symptoms are no worse than for a bee or wasp sting

What makes a species venomous?

Source: Natural History Museum

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