Spiders and bees cause most venomous bite and sting hospitalisations

Over 11,000 people in Australia were hospitalised because of a venomous bite or sting between 2002 and 2005, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Spider bites accounted for a third of those hospitalisations, and the vast majority of spider bite cases were attributed to red-backs (59%).

A much smaller proportion of cases were attributed to white-tailed spiders (7%) and funnel web spiders (3%).

Clare Bradley of the AIHW's National Injury Surveillance Unit, said that 3 in 10 bite and sting hospitalisations were because of wasp and bee stings.

'Bee stings alone accounted for almost 25% of all bite and sting hospitalisations,' she said.

Bites from snakes accounted for just 15% of bite and sting hospitalisations.

'Just over half of those snake bite cases were attributed to brown snakes (54%). Black snake (15%) and tiger snake (11%) bites were also common,' Ms Bradley said.

Other venomous bites and stings requiring hospitalisation in 2002-05 were attributed to venomous arthropods, such as ants, centipedes, and millipedes (10% of cases) and venomous marine animals, such as jellyfish and stingrays (9%).

The report, Venomous bites and stings in Australia to 2005, also revealed strong correlations between the rate of venomous bites and stings and place of residence.

Not surprisingly, residents of major cities had the lowest rate while residents of the very remote regions of Australia had the highest.

The highest rates of hospitalised bite and sting cases occurred in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, while the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria had the lowest rates.

Nearly a quarter of bites and stings that required hospitalisation occurred at home.

Rates of hospitalised bites and stings were mostly stable over the six-year period 1999-2005.

The only notable exception was the marked increase in marine-related bites and stings observed for residents of Queensland in 2001-02, confirming reports that that year's stinger season was particularly severe,' Ms Bradley said.

Hospitalisations due to contact with venomous animals and plants were more common for males and for younger people.

Over 63% of all bite or sting cases in 2002-05 involved males, and over 73% of bee-sting cases that required hospitalisation were for males.

Thursday 29 May 2008

Further information: Ms Clare Bradley, 08 8201 7625.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 61 2 6244 1032.