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Centipede bites to blame for two patients admitted to Longreach Hospital in one night

By Ellie Grounds and Craig Fitzsimmons, Friday September 25, 2020 - 08:45 EST
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Centipedes have "poison claws" which can puncture human flesh and cause excruciating pain. - Audience submitted

There is a long list of dangerous critters in outback Queensland, but one long, leggy creepy crawly in particular is keeping residents on their toes.

When Longreach resident Cerise Woodfield suddenly felt an excruciating pain in her foot, she immediately feared a snake bite.

Ms Woodfield had just walked into her backyard on Tuesday evening in a pair of thongs to turn off the sprinkler.

"I've never experienced pain like it," she said.

"There was like a burning sensation.

"I rang 13 HEALTH to see what to do, as I'd noticed two puncture marks in my foot."

She was advised to call an ambulance immediately and was taken to Longreach Hospital where doctors treated her for a suspected snake bite.

But tests soon revealed her backyard assailant was a slithering creature of a different kind — a venomous centipede.

Her experience was not unique that night as, within 10 minutes of arriving at the hospital, another patient with the same symptoms arrived from Ilfracombe, a town about 20 minutes away.

"Even the doctor spun out," Ms Woodfield said.

"[The other patient] was telling her story about what happened to her and [the doctor] turns around and said to me 'Oh, I've heard that before'.

"It was a bit uncanny."

Rain likely the reason for influx of centipedes

The Collection Manager for Arachnids at the Queensland Museum, Owen Seeman, said it was likely that had caused centipedes to emerge.

"They certainly do like a bit of moisture or, if they're getting flooded, they'll move to the higher ground," Dr Seeman said.

"They have to get out of their homes, and suddenly they're not hidden away from your sight, but running into your yards and trying to find a place to be dry."

He said if you could not see what bit you, it was understandable you might think it was a snake.

"A big centipede, like all centipedes, has a pair of what we call 'poison claws' right underneath their head," he said.

"That's a modified pair of legs and they spread them apart and give you a mighty pinch, and that certainly hurts.

"It will feel like two very strong, sharp objects being stabbed into your skin, and for that reason you might think a snake had bitten you.

"They're able to stand up on their last few pairs of legs, so they'll reach up 6 inches, 7 inches (15-18 centimetres).

"That's how high they can strike if they're trying to give you a bite, but they really would only do that if stepped on."


© ABC 2020

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