Giant hairy spider attacks spark panic in India

(AP) GAUHATI, India - Officials say colonies of giant biting spiders have attacked villagers and sparked panic in remote northeast India. But they say locals' attempts to treat the painful swelling caused by the bites may be more dangerous than the spiders themselves.

Two bite victims have died in Tinsukia district. Authorities say it is unclear whether they died from venom or from treatment by witch doctors who cut them with razor blades to drain the wounds.

Local magistrate Kishore Thakuria said the victims were cremated before autopsies could be done.

Another seven bite victims have been treated with antibiotics against infection after they also tried to drain their wounds, said Dr. Anil Phapowali at the local Sadiya town hospital.

A man displays a spider suspected to be a new species of tarantula in Tinsukia, Assam state, India.
AP Photo
The hairy spiders were first noticed about a month ago across Tinsukia district's grassy plains and dense jungle forests north of the Brahmaputra River.

Ecologist L.R. Saikia at Assam's Dibrugarh University said it may be a previously unknown species of tarantula.

"It looks like a new species. We haven't been able to identify it," he said Tuesday. Officials cannot use anti-venom in treating bite victims until the species is identified.

Meanwhile, villagers are keeping lamps on at night and standing guard against spiders entering their mud-and-thatch huts.

There are about 100,000 villagers, mostly poor rice farmers, living in the area cut off from roads by the river.

Officials say the spiders are now also showing up south of the Brahmaputra.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App