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Spider bites often misdiagnosed by doctors

While many Oregon residents may believe that spider bites are common and dangerous, a study shows that up to 78 percent of alleged spider bites may be misdiagnosed by doctors. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Bern in Switzerland, was published in Toxicon on Feb. 26.

Researchers looked at 134 cases of supposed spider bites published in medical journal articles between 1939 and 2014 and discovered that the vast majority of spider bites were never verified. An alleged spider was seen biting the victim in only 45 percent of incidents, and, of those incidents, the species of spider was properly identified less than 50 percent of the time. Of the 64 bites said to be from recluse spiders, only six were actually verified, and of the 35 bites attributed to black widows, only three were verified. The authors of the study noted that victims and doctors have difficulty telling the difference between spider bites, tick bites and bites from other insects. They have even more difficulty differentiating between poisonous spider bites and harmless ones.

Misdiagnosis of a spider bite could be dangerous or even deadly. In one case, a 30-year-old Guatemalan woman sought medical treatment for a wound on her thigh. Doctors diagnosed the lesion as a recluse spider bite, but a flesh-eating fungus was actually the culprit. The woman died approximately a month later after undergoing a leg amputation. Staphylococcus aureus infections can also be misdiagnosed as spider bites.

A doctor's misdiagnosis could cause a patient to suffer long-term medical complications. Those who have been harmed as a result may want to have the assistance of counsel in pursuing a medical malpractice claim against the at-fault practitioner.

Source: Discover, "Arachnophobia in the Medical Literature: Are Published 'Spider Bites" Reliable?,"Christie Wilcox, Feb. 28, 2016

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