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from This is London


Commuter bitten by a tropical spider

by Dan Bridgett

April 15, 2002

A City worker was off work for a month after being bitten on the leg by a tropical spider - in the first-class carriage of a Eurostar train.

Gillian Burgis, 33, was on a business trip to France when she felt a sudden pain on the side of her right leg. Within hours the wound swelled up, leaving her barely able to walk.

In addition to the month she had off work Miss Burgis, from Brentwood, Essex, spent 10 days being treated in hospital.

Doctors told her there was a 50 per cent chance that an area of infected flesh might have to be cut away, and warned they might have to amputate if the infection spread to her bones.

Miss Burgis, a senior project architect, said: "It was the most frightening experience of my life. The swelling was the size of a tea saucer and was red and purple in the centre. It looked like I had been shot. I would have understood if I had got bitten by something nasty on a jungle trek - but all I was doing was sitting on a Eurostar train."

Miss Burgis had been on a day trip to Lille. A chemist told her the sting looked like an allergic reaction to an insect bite and recommended cortisone cream. She also needed painkillers.

She went on another business trip to Paris three days after the bite. But she was in such pain she returned to London and went straight to the Northwick Park Hospital, where the wound was lanced to drain the poison.

Miss Burgis said: "The doctor there was certain that I had got an infection and a fever after being bitten by some sort of tropical spider or stung by a scorpion. He told me the wound was just like another confirmed spider bite he had treated. By then it had got to the point where I could virtually only crawl."

Eurostar has offered Miss Burgis flowers and a ticket to France as compensation. Spokesman Roger Harrison said: "We are very sorry for this - but we are at a loss to see how it happened and we are not sure how responsible we are. Spiders or other creatures have never been an issue on our trains. There must be a one in an umpteen million chance of something like this happening."

Miss Burgis recovered and returned to work today. The hospital confirmed her treatment for a suspected spider bite.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd., 15 April 2002

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