Appeal for Calm After Man Dies Following ‘Spider Bites’

 | Sat 2 Aug 2014 00:14 ICT

CityNews – Experts have refuted claims that deadly brown recluse spiders are at large in northern Thailand, and called for calm following an outbreak of panic on social media.

A brown widow spider. Photo from Wikipedia.

The move follows the death of 46-year-old Uthai Viengkam in Phrae province on Monday – almost three weeks after he was bitten by a brown recluse, according to local media reports and the hospital where he was treated.

The highly venomous spiders are native to the USA, and rumours swept the north that they had arrived in the country with imported goods.

The Fifth Special Force Regiment announced last week that a brown recluse spider had been found in Chiang Mai, sparking more panic and confusion.

But Dr Emma Shaw, a British expert on spiders who teaches at the Prem Tinsulanonda International School, disputed these claims after examining the specimen found by the army at Chiang Mai University.

“The spider the army found was a brown widow. They are present in Chiang Mai and despite being part of the Latrodectus (black widow) family they are not something to be too worried about,” said Dr Shaw, a founding member of the Asian Society of Arachnology (ASA), which specialises in the study of spiders.

Although they can bite, like other species of spiders, brown widows are not considered dangerous except in rare cases involving children and the elderly.

The ASA added in a statement: “After extensive surveying of all houses in the villages in Phrae, it was determined that the brown recluse spider is not in Thailand. Whilst Thailand has a lot of spiders, most of them are completely harmless to humans and there really is nothing to worry about.”

Uthai died from a blood infection, reports said, after suffering multiple spider bites while in bed at home in Phrae’s Den Chai district. Doctors had already amputated his right leg from above the knee in a bid to save his life.