Monday, January 08, 2007

Centipede Blamed for Death

Loren Coleman passed this article along. A centipede is blamed for the death of a pregnant woman in Malaysia:

"Azlina Saian, 33, (picture) had thought that she was bitten by an ant as she laid on the floor watching television with her husband at their home in Kampung Tanjung Siam Baru on Dec 29.
"Thinking that it was only a minor ant bite, her husband Abdul Rahman Samad, 37, told her to apply some ointment.
"It was only when Azlina’s face started to swell that Abdul Rahman became worried. By midnight, four hours after the incident, Azlina was running a high fever.
"The odd-job worker later discovered a small centipede among the pillows where Azlina had been lying down earlier but thought nothing of it.
"However, Azlina’s condition worsened over the next two days and she started to bleed from the gums on New Year’s Day.
"'I rushed her to the Tanjung Karang Hospital but on the way there, she said she could feel our baby slipping away,' he said.
"Their worst fears were confirmed when doctors told them that the foetus was dead. Azlina was transferred to Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) in Klang for further treatment but her condition continued to deteriorate.
"'She was bleeding from the nose and under her fingernails and even a blood transfusion could not help.' Abdul Rahman said doctors induced the foetus which appeared swollen.
"Azlina died at 8.15am yesterday and was buried at a cemetery near their home in Kuala Selangor.
"HTAR director Dr Yahaya Baba said that the victim died of septicaemic (blood poisoning) and shock. "

The blame in this tragedy appears misplaced: it is highly unlikely that a centipede was the culprit. There is an Asian species, Scolopendra subspinipes, that can be dangerous as an adult, but a small one is not going to have the capability to deliver enough venom to kill a human. The small centipede was not found until later, suggesting it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The symptoms don't particularly suggest centipede envenomations, either. (A study on centipede envenomations, with case studies, can be viewed at the Wilderness Medical Society site.) The coagulation problem almost suggests (and I'm not a doctor, so this isn't medical advice) a viper bite.

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