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Vermont Woman Bitten By Black Widow Spider: What You Need To Know About The Poisonous Bite

spiders
Black widow spiders will sometimes appear in bags of grapes after the fruit isn't checked properly during manufacturing. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A 21-year-old Vermont woman was hospitalized after being bitten by a black widow spider that escaped from a bag of grapes, according to news reports. The woman reportedly bought grapes from a grocery store called Shaw’s, located in Colchester, Vt.

According to the woman’s mother, she reached into the bag of grapes and the spider crawled up her arm and bit her. After catching the spider, they rushed her to the University of Vermont Medical Center, where a nurse confirmed that it was indeed a black widow spider.

The black widow, or the Latrodectus mactans, has a shiny black body with a red belly. They’re found throughout the U.S., but are mostly common in the South and the West — lurking in sheds, stone walls, fences, or woodpiles. Black widows are poisonous, so if if you’re bitten by one (which will often feel like a needle prick, then result in inflammation and pain spreading through the body), seek medical attention immediately. Most of the time, a bite won’t cause severe effects in a healthy adult. If a child, elderly, or very ill person is bitten, however, they may not survive.

Once you're at the hospital, doctors treat black widow bites with medications and, if it’s severe enough, antivenin medication to reverse the poison. Patients are typically kept at the hospital for a short time to monitor vitals and pain, but within three to four days after treatment, the symptoms will disappear.

“You’ll go into the emergency room, they’ll monitor you for blood pressure, heart rate, and pain, obviously, and then they’ll treat for the pain with either pain medications or a muscle relaxant, and then they’ll look to see if the pains get worse and the symptoms get worse,” Gayle Finkelstein told WPTZ News.

Fortunately, the Vermont woman was treated at the hospital and released after one night. In the meantime, Shaw’s notes that it’s working to check its grape products throughout its stores to ensure there are no more black widow spiders to be found.

“The health and safety of products we sell, and our customers, is our first concern,” Brian Dowling, a spokesperson for Shaw’s Public Affairs, said in a statement. “We have been closely monitoring the situation and been in contact with the family. We replaced the product in the customer’s refrigerator as a precaution and took immediate action to inspect the product at the customer’s store. We are also inspecting the product in all of our stores and have been in touch with the supplier, which has an extensive food safety management system in place.”

This isn’t the first time a black widow spider was found in grapes. In 2013, a woman shopping at Aldi grocery store in Milwaukee spotted spiders crawling in red grapes. More were later found in grocery stores throughout Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. 

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