False widow spiders force Gloucestershire school Dean Academy to close

October 24, 2013 (LONDON)

The school said no one had been bitten by the spiders, but local health authorities have advised it to close for the day to deal with the infestation. One mother, whose son attends Dean Academy, said she thought authorities had overreacted, creating unnecessary panic.

"The stories have been sort of quite hysteria, mass panic. By the time the children had come out yesterday, students had had their legs bitten off, one had a hole in their hand. It's not good at all," said Samantha Golding.

She said her son had been actively looking to find a false widow spider, but with no success. Even so, false widow spiders were filmed at Dean Academy on Wednesday by UK broadcaster Sky News. Experts say the Steodata nobilis, a species of the false widow, are becoming more common in the UK and are the most dangerous of the 12 species of biting spiders known in Britain.

The Dean Academy, a secondary school in southwest England's Gloucestershire, closed Wednesday to get rid of the false widow spiders. The spiders are commonly mistaken for their relative, the black widow spider, whose bite can be fatal.

Spider bites are rare in Britain, and in most cases the symptoms are mild. The spider's bite may sting, swell up or cause discomfort like a wasp sting, but has not been known to cause deaths.

"They're not aggressive spiders, they don't seek out humans," said David Lalloo, a professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

"Most people won't get much of a reaction. Some people may feel a bit unwell for a day or two, but that's very rare," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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