Central Florida authorities are reporting a rare death from a spider bite.
Polk County Medical Examiner Stephen Nelson tells The Ledger that Ronald Reese of Lakeland died Feb. 16 from complications of a spider bite.
Nelson said the bite became infected and developed into an abscess on the back of Reese's neck, which pressed on his spinal cord.
Reese's father says the 62-year-old had been bitten in August by a brown recluse spider. H.K. William Reese says required lengthy hospital stays and numerous procedures for six months after the bite.
"He was working in an old house tearing out the existing walls and ceilings and replacing them. Brown recluse spiders like to live in those old houses," he said.
Nelson said Reese was never tested to determine what type of spider bit him, but medical records show there were definite complications from a spider bite wound on his neck.
Few statistics on deaths attributed to spider bites are available. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, only two people died from spider bites between 2001 and 2005. Both were believed to be caused by brown recluse spiders.
The brown recluse spider, which is not native to Florida, is one of just a handful of spiders that are dangerous to humans, though all spiders carry venom as a way to kill and digest their prey, said Polk State College biology professor Logan Randolph.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a bite from a brown recluse spider starts with two small puncture wounds and develops into a blister. The venom can also cause a severe lesion by destroying skin tissue, which requires medical attention.
However, the bites typically aren't lethal, Randolph said.
"In most spider bites, complications arise mostly if there's some secondary factor. If the person has a specific allergic reaction, if their health was compromised in some other manner, or if the bite causes an open wound with a secondary infection," Randolph said.
Spiders typically avoid humans, he said.
"Most spiders aren't going to attack you," Randolph said. "It's when you trap them, or you're moving something out of a cabinet and your hand brushes them - it's typically a defense. They react rather than attack."