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‘It felt like someone was drilling into my bones.’ Caterpillar puts woman in hospital

A puss caterpillar is shown July 12, 2004, in New Orleans. They look like giant pussy willows. But don’t touch. Unlike the flowers, puss caterpillars carry venom in their fur. And it looks to be a big year for puss caterpillars, said Michael Carrol, assistant director of New Orleans’ Mosquito and Termite Control Board. Puss caterpillars, the young of a nocturnal moth called the southern flannel moth, can be gray, white or tan. Many stinging wrigglies, like the buck moth caterpillar, bear dangerous-looking spines. These are more deceptive. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Jennifer Zdon)
A puss caterpillar is shown July 12, 2004, in New Orleans. They look like giant pussy willows. But don’t touch. Unlike the flowers, puss caterpillars carry venom in their fur. And it looks to be a big year for puss caterpillars, said Michael Carrol, assistant director of New Orleans’ Mosquito and Termite Control Board. Puss caterpillars, the young of a nocturnal moth called the southern flannel moth, can be gray, white or tan. Many stinging wrigglies, like the buck moth caterpillar, bear dangerous-looking spines. These are more deceptive. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, Jennifer Zdon) AP

Deadly snakes. Deadly spiders.

But deadly caterpillars?

A Florida woman reportedly wound up in the emergency room after coming in contact with one of the most venomous caterpillars in the U.S.

Bri Oteri detailed her Dade City encounter with the Puss caterpillar in an Oct. 4 Facebook post.

The young mother’s Saturday began like any other Saturday. Oteri was minding her business, leaning against a wooden fence when she suddenly felt her wrist burning. A paramedic cleaned her up and she continued about her day, according to the post.

Then came the pain.

“I was watching my son practice and all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe,” Oteri wrote. “I thought I was going to pass out.”

As the pain spread throughout Oteri’s chest, she told her husband that they needed to go to the hospital immediately. The pain, she says, was so excruciating that not even morphine helped.

“I’ve had 2 c-sections, other surgeries, and nothing came close to the pain,” she posted. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones.”

Oteri’s experience unfortunately isn’t unique. The caterpillars are common in Florida and Texas but can also be found along the East Coast, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Known for their furry exterior, the caterpillars are anything but warm and cozy — that same fuzzy layer actually conceals extremely toxic quills.

“How bad the sting hurts depends on where you get stung and how many spines are embedded in your skin,” Donald Hall, an entomologist at the University of Florida, told National Geographic. “People who have been stung on the hand say the pain can radiate up to their shoulder and last for up to 12 hours.”

After being initially reluctant to share her story, Oteri chose to do so with the hope that others will avoid the deadly insect.

“Please, please be on the lookout for these things or read about them online. There are articles everywhere,” she concluded. “ I am so glad it was me and not my children or anyone else’s child.”

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.
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