Spiders & Snakes: NIOSH Adds New Topic Pages to Site, with Pictures

Turning its focus to venomous creatures that affect primarily (but not only) outdoor workers, NIOSH recently introduced three new safety and health topics on its Web site that address insects and scorpions, spiders, and snakes. The new topic pages are designed to help employers train their employees on the risk of exposure and include information on the symptoms associated with stings and bites, how workers can protect themselves, and what they should do if they are stung or bitten.

According to the site, thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90 to 100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions. This number may be underreported as deaths may be mistakenly diagnosed as heart attacks or sunstrokes or may be attributed to other causes. Insects included in the site's coverage are bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. Outdoor workers at risk of exposure to them include farmers, foresters, landscapers, groundskeepers, gardeners, painters, roofers, pavers, construction workers, laborers, mechanics, and any other workers who spend time outside. These are the same workers NIOSH says are at risk from venomous spiders and snakes.

Venomous spiders found in the United States include the black widow, brown recluse, and hobo spiders, all of which occasionally find their way inside structures or buildings and can also present a risk to indoor workers including machine operators, janitors, and cashiers. The site notes that spiders usually are not aggressive and most bites occur because a spider is trapped or unintentionally contacted.

Venomous snakes found in the United States include rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths/water moccasins, and coral snakes. NIOSH notes that, although rare, some workers with a severe allergy to snake venom may be at risk of death if bitten. It has been estimated that 7,000 to 8,000 people per year receive venomous bites in the United States, and about five of those people die. The number of deaths would be much higher if people did not seek medical care, NIOSH says.

To read more on any of these topics, visit www.cdc.gov/niosh/whatsnew.html.

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