UK

False Widow Spider Bite Causes Woman To Lose Finger

30/09/2014 13:00 BST | Updated 30/09/2014 16:59 BST

A woman from County Durham lost a finger after a spider bite lead to a life-threatening flesh-eating infection.

Despite ten weeks in hospital undergoing 14 operations, Andrea Wallace, 44 had to have the digit amputated.

The mother of four was playing in the garden with her children when she was bitten and assumed it was an insect bite.

false black widow

After the amputation

Unfortunately it was actually a false widow spider, the most venomous species in the UK. Not only that but it was also carrying a flesh eating bug called necrotising fasciitis.

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Within hours Wallace's finger had swelled to double it's size. “I just couldn’t stand the pain, it had really swollen up, the skin was cracking and there was black pus bursting out of it", she told the Mirror.

false black widow

Ms Wallace's badly infected finger oozing pus

Wallace also noticed a mark on her shoulder which, little did she know, was the poison spreading up her body towards her heart.

She described it as "something from a horror film...you could see the poison tracking up the vein in my arm, the veins were changing colour".

When the pain became unbearable she went to the Sunderland Royal Hospital where she was immediately rushed to theatre. It was there she was told had she waited any longer she could have died.

Doctors recognised the bite was from a spider though the extremity of her reaction was very unusual.

They managed to stop the poison from entering other parts of her body but unfortunately could not save her finger.

false black widow

Ms Wallace is left with no left index finger and a 6 inch scar on her left hand

Wallace, a hairdresser, is concerned the amputation of her left index will effect her work. But she is also looking at the ordeal in a positive light: "Losing my finger was a small price to pay...I could've lost my life."

False black widow spiders are the most venomous spider found in the UK. Around the size of a 50p piece, they have cream markings on their brown, reddish bodies with orangey legs. There have been no deaths in the UK but several victims have been hospitalised such as Alison Blackburn in January and John Catlin last October.

false black widow spider

A False Black Widow Spider

False widow spiders have thought to have entered the UK via fruit shipments in the 1870s. Recently, the number of spiders has increased due to warm weather, wildlife experts say.

Although extreme cases like Wallace's are rare, a false widow bite can cause severe swelling, chest pains and tingling of fingers. Complications usually occur due to bacteria on the skin causing infection not from the venom itself.