Woman dies following apparent spider bite
By Blythe Bernhard
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Apr. 05 2008
The death of a Town and Country woman from complications of an apparent spider bite should not cause public alarm, doctors and biologists said this week.
Real estate agent Rita Boles Brumm, 63, died Monday about a month after it is thought she was bitten in the chest by a brown recluse spider.
While the spiders are commonly found indoors year-round, fatalities from bites are extremely rare. A minority of bites can cause a skin lesion. In the most severe cases, organ failure can result. Health officials do not keep statistics on victims of spider bites.
People can respond differently depending on their sensitivity to the spider’s
poison and the location of the bite. Bites on the head, neck or chest can be more serious because of the proximity of lymph nodes and organs, biologists say. Most deaths occur in small children or people with a weakened immune system.
Friends say Brumm felt a sharp sting in February while putting on a sweater but did not see a spider. At dinner that night, she experienced flu-like symptoms and was taken to Missouri Baptist Medical Center, friends said.
Brumm stayed at the hospital for about a month being treated for a skin lesion and kidney failure. She was on kidney dialysis and recuperating at home when she died, friends said.
Missouri Baptist officials would not comment on Brumm’s case, citing patient
Doctors and biologists said they could not recall any other local deaths from
spider bites. The surprising death does not signal an increase in the spiders
or their toxicity, they added.
“You can find them active all year,” said Thomas Bratkowski, a biology
professor at Maryville University. “As the name implies, they’re reclusive and
so typically they don’t come out and attack people.”
There is no lab test to confirm the diagnosis, and no effective treatment for
the bites other than treating the symptoms, said Dr. Dennis Keithly, chairman of the emergency department at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center.
Friends say Brumm was a charming and natural leader.
“Everyone adored her and they just got on her bandwagon,” said Suzanne
Richardson, a lifelong friend who lives in Ladue. “This was someone that this
community will miss.”
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