Friday, September 21, 2007

Black Widow


The deadly black widow

It seems that since I have come to Kenya I have had to deal with danger nearly everyday. If I am not dodging malaria infected mosquitoes, I could be killed and devoured by wild animals. If I am not killed by a crazy matatu driver, I could be robbed and beaten by thugs in the night.

It also seems that when I am just getting used to living with one danger something even more dangerous presents itself.

Not a flush toilet!

Just such a an occurrence happened to me last week when I was about to use the bathroom in my house. I was about to sit down on what passes for a toilet seat in Kenya when I noticed something crawling underneath. In the dim light it appeared as if it was an insect or spider and when I waved my hand to shoo it away I noticed something vaguely familiar, a red hourglass figure.

I could always be mistaken, but it looked a lot like a black widow spider. I had never seen a live black widow spider before, only in pictures. So after taking a picture of my own, I killed it, doused the seat with insect repellent, and went to the internet to do some research.

Female black widow spiders are gloss black with a red hourglass shaped marking on the underside of its abdomen. The venom of a black widow spider is reported to be 15 times more potent than that of a rattlesnake. Although a small amount of the venom is usually not enough to kill a healthy adult human, it does produce very unpleasant symptoms and can cause swelling up to 15 cm. Deaths in healthy adults from black widow spider bites are relatively rare in terms of number of bites per thousand. Only 63 deaths were reported in the United States between 1950 and 1989. Prior to the development of anti-venom, 5% of reported cases resulted in a fatalities. Improvements in plumbing have greatly reduced the incidence of bites and fatalities in areas where outdoor privies have been replaced by flush toilets.

Never underestimate the power of a flush toilet!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim!
So I'm a real teacher nowadays and one of the kids in my class talks about africa all the time (2nd grade! I'd never even heard of Africa at that point!) and was randomly talking about black widows the other day! The africa part made me think of you, and I decided to catch up on reading your blog, and then there was a black widow post! haha...crazy. :-) Glad to hear you are alive and well and not getting eaten by any bugs! Keep up God's good work!! Take care and God bless Tim. Mike and I sometimes talk about you and wonder about you and pray for you as well!

-Laura

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