Nikki Perez is lucky to be alive. You see, the Texas student was waiting to catch a flight at the Amarillo Airport when one of the world’s most deadly spiders, the brown recluse, sunk its venomous fangs into her neck. Over the next few days, the her face swelled up like a balloon, shutting one of her eyes, and her right ear started rotting off.
“I was going blind … it was terrifying,” said Perez of her ordeal. “It was spreading all over my head, which actually felt like a bit of a relief as the pain was so concentrated behind my ear.”
Perez, 21, a student at Texas Christian University, was travelling with her boyfriend and his mother last fall when she was bitten.
“I felt a nasty pinch when I touched my neck,” Perez said. “Next, I felt something crawling over my face and over my eye. I yelled for [my boyfriend] to help me, and when he saw the spider crawling over my face, he swatted it to the floor, and stamped on it.”
Fortunately, her boyfriend’s mom was a nurse, who knew something was wrong when she took a closer look at the bite. She knew Perez would need medical attention – and quickly – once she identified the spider as a brown recluse by the violin-shaped mark on its back.
“A bite from a brown recluse can be deadly,” says Janet Kempf, an arachnologist with the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. “They also cause a wide range of debilitating symptoms from vomiting to rashes and in some cases, a lesion that can become necrotic, or rotten, and has to be removed.”
Perez spent four days in the hospital receiving steroids via IV to bring the swelling down. She was told that some of the skin tissue on her face might become necrotic as a result of the brown recluse spider’s powerful venom.
After she was released from the hospital, part of her right ear began to rot. Perez had surgery to remove the dead tissue and received a skin graft to repair her ear. She was considered fortunate, as the necrosis was limited to just a part of her ear.
Death by the brown recluse spider’s bite usually only occurs among the very young or elderly. Only one to two people die each year as a result of a bite from a brown recluse spider.
The brown recluse spider is native to the Southeast and parts of the Midwest, but according to some scientific studies, the poisonous arachnid is likely to venture into new territories in the not-too-distant future as climate change creates warmer habitats for it to populate.
More in the video below.
- Rotting-Ear Case the Work of Deadly Brown Recluse Spider (abcnews.go.com)
- Brown Recluse Spider Bite (41staid.wordpress.com)