The Sydney funnel
web spider is a bulky, ugly-looking and relatively large (6-7 cm) spider
much feared by the people in Australia. It can rear up on its hind legs
when annoyed, aggressively exposing its massive fangs- they are strong
enough to penetrate even a finger-nail. The spider attacks in a very specific
manner: it grips its victim tightly and inflicts a series of painful
bites. It is only found in a radius of 160 km from Sydney and has caused
several human deaths in that area since 1920.
The venom of the smaller
male is five times more toxic than the venom of the female. Unfortunately,
males tend to appear in hot summer days after heavy rains and they often
make their webs indoors. The main component of their venom is atraxotoxin
which alone can cause all the symptoms. It is strange that humans and monkeys
are affected by the toxins, while some animals like toads, cats and rabbits
remain almost unaffected.
Now that there is an effective
antivenin created, the bites are rarely fatal. It is absolutely essential
that an immediate first aid is given. Otherwise severe symptoms may develop
that eventually lead to death. At first there is muscular twitching, increased
salivation and lacrimation (secretion of tears), profuse sweating. Then
tachycardia occurs, i.e. the heart starts beating very rapidly, and the
blood pressure dangerously rises. The victim starts vomiting, he may lose
consciousness and looks awful, with fixed dilated pupils. After two hours
most of these symptoms start to subside and are replaced by hypotension
(abnormally low blood pressure) which is due to severe cardiac failure.
First aid includes immediate
transportation of the victim to a medical facility. The pressure-immobilization
method must be applied as soon as possible and the bandage must not be
removed prematurely. The medical personnel will treat the patient with
antivenin and various other medicines that control the blood pressure,
and muscle relaxants. Artificial ventilation and constant monitoring of
the patient are needed.