Thursday, January 03, 2008
These things can be dangerous. To be safe, I recommend you seek medical attention if you are bitten by a mukade.
The American Trantula Society says
"Much has been alleged on the toxicity of centipede venom, but very little material on the subject has made its way into the scientific literature. As with tarantulas, this vast lack of medical reports on them more than likely indicates they are not medically significant. Like tarantulas, their perceived repulsive appearance by most people is probably the reason they are widely viewed as somehow dangerous and toxic. We do know that some of the larger centipedes, especially in tropical areas, can administer a painful stab, but none are known to be dangerous. All we can say for sure on the subject is that some can cause a painful bite, but that's absolutely all."
The English Wikipedia page says that there has only been one centipede fatality - a child was bitten on the head in a pacific island and even the Scolopendra gigantea (Giant centipedes) found in the Amazon and trinidad, are rarely fatal, only painful according to this case study paper. They seem to suggest (by extrapolation from mice) that the fatal does in humans is 1000 venom glands. Even if there are two venom glands per centipede, this would require being bitten by 500 of them. If you did not die you would probably want to. They summarise the effects as follows
"The most common scenario includes moderate to severe local symptoms associated with mild systemic symptoms. Local symptoms include pain, erythema, edema, lymphangitis/lymphadenitis, weakness, and paresthesias. Skin necrosis may occur at the site of envenomation during the weeks following the sting, but rarely becomes extensive and heals spontaneously. Systemic symptoms may include anxiety, fever, dizziness, palpitations, and nausea. "
"Despite the striking appearance of the offender and the significant pain associated with a sting, treatment for centipede envenomation is essentially pain control and routine wound care."
However, most of the cases being that of one of the (centipede rearing) authors and none of the centipedes were mukade. There is however, at least one paper about mukade bites which reports that they can cause Korsakoff's syndrome!
You know they mean business when, unlike any other bug, they show no fear, and walk towards you.
I was putting on my wetsuit one chilly December afternoon when I felt a movement next to my thigh, my inner thigh. I knew what it was.
And it bit me. The pain was not so great as my panic as I felt it crawl down (could have been worse!) my leg, towards where the wetsuit was tighter and I thought it would bite me more. I used a knife to slit open the wetsuit to my calf, and when it escaped my friends dispatched it.
At first I thought that it had only given me a nibble. I had experienced a mukade nibble in the past, when I awoke to find one on my upper torso. Two red bite marks were all that were left. It did not hurt all that much nor had any ill after effect (Partly perhaps because I used alkaline - ammonia - on the wound).
And neither did it hurt all that much on that day, when a mukade shared my wetsuit.
I continued to wakeboard. The thrill of wakeboarding made me forget the pain. No worse than a bee sting I thought. But I was wrong.
The next day, or the day after that, my left thigh had swollen to about 1.3 times it size. This is no mean feat. I do not have thin thighs.
All the same I thought I would brave it out, and went jogging (I do this a lot). I thought I would flush the poison out with a good pump of blood with a little adrenaline. The leg around the bite became hard. By the third day I had a fever and was feeling generally weak.
I went to the doctor. They gave me antibiotics and antihystamines I think. They told me that had I come immediately after the bite I would have saved myself a lot of bother.
I was a 37 year old 70 Kg male. The mukade was not as big as the one in this picture. If your child gets bitten by one of these things, or if you get bitten on the neck, go a hospital immediately. Go to a hospital immediately anyway if you do not want to have serious swelling and general malaise. Who knows what would have happened had I not gone to the hospital at all.
I was only after I had posted the first draft of this that I realised that Todd Baker << technowannabe had kindly linked to another rendition of this story.
I find that incecticide does kill mukade if you douse them in it. But they do not die immediately.
This is hearsay but, I believe that a lot of incecticide uses the same active ingredient which is a nerve gas to bugs. It does something to their nerve receptors or somesuch, such that they loose, or gradually loose, muscular (if that is the right word) coordination. Flies sprayed with bug spray also go beserk in a way, changing course at even more regular intervals, bumping into things, flying upwards, dowards, upside down.
I seem to remember a mukade sprayed with bug spray loosing the coordination of its legs which, instead of moving in a controlled ripple, started to work all at once. The berserking mukade would probably have died. But in the meantime it went beserk.
I got good with chopsticks and developed an ability to drop them in a jar of oil. When I gave up on the oil (see the other post linked above), I just chopsticked them out of my house. Do not attempt to chopstick a mukade unless you are very confident with chopsticks.