Man has died after being bitten by a poisonous redback spider during a bushwalk on Australia’s east coast in what is believed to be the country’s first fatality from a spider in almost 40 years.
Jayden Burleigh, from Sydney, was bitten by a native redback while walking on the north coast of New South Wales last week and was treated in hospital after he developed an abscess under his left arm which affected his glands.
He was released last Thursday and given a course of antibiotics but died on Saturday.
It is not yet clear whether Mr Burleigh was given antivenom. There have been no recorded deaths caused by a redback since 1955, a year after the antivenom was introduced.
Mr Burleigh’s parents, Deborah and Mike Burleigh, said the cause of Jayden’s death was unlikely to be confirmed for several weeks.
The death has come as a heavy blow to the couple, who lost their younger son Lachlan in a car accident last year.
“What we do know is that only a week ago he was in hospital, recovering from an infection due to a redback spider bite,” they said.
“He had a general anaesthetic to drain a severe abscess at Nambour hospital [in Queensland] and was there for four days. He had also just recovered from injuries sustained in a car accident a few weeks prior.”
Australia is known for its varied array of large and sometimes hairy spiders, but most species pose little threat to humans.
The redback, a relative of the notorious black widow, is found across the country, including in cities, but is one of only two deadly spiders in Australia.
The continent’s other deadly spider is the funnel-web, often labelled the world’s most dangerous spider.
According to the Australian Museum, no confirmed deaths have occurred from a funnel-web bite since 1979, a year before an antivenom was introduced in 1980.
A spokeswoman for the Nambour hospital said she could not comment on whether Mr Burleigh was given antivenom.
“Due to patient confidentiality legislation we are unable to provide comment on a patient and/or their medical history without their or their legal guardian’s written consent,” she told The Telegraph.
More than 2,000 people are bitten by a redback in Australia each year.
Bites can cause severe pain, sweating, muscular weakness, nausea and vomiting but are rarely lethal. Only female redbacks are dangerous but the creatures rarely leave their web.
Mr and Mrs Burleigh said the loss of their son left “an immensely deep hole on this planet”.
“He adored nature, thrived on climbing mountains, exploring forests, diving in oceans, meeting people, and planning his next adventures,” they said.
“His loss cannot be comprehended by the human heart. However, his legacy will eternally live on as he continues his heavenly adventures together with Lachie.”
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