Learn These Startling Facts About Snake Bites.
Whether you live in a city or a village, there is always a chance that you will encounter a snake. Therefore, let us take steps to know all that we can about snake bites.
How can I know more about snake bites?
Short Answer: Knowledge is power.
- Find reliable sources to learn more about snakes and snake bites.
- Learn about the types of snake bites.
- Educate yourself on where most snake bites occur, and
- Learn what happens when a person is bitten by a snake, and learn how to respond appropriately.
Reliable Sources of Facts About Snake Bites
There are several governmental and international platforms to learn about snake bites. They can help better understand the distribution of snake bites in your locality and worldwide.
Some of the international organizations include;
- World Health Organization
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention
- Global Snake Initiative
- Health Action International
Some of the local institutions include;
- Australian Venom Research Unit
- Health Direct
- Safer Care Victoria, and
- Regional Health Ministries
The World Health Organization (WHO):
Established on April 7th, 1948, the World Health Organization is the body of the United Nations that bears the responsibility of responding to global health crises and assisting UN member nations in the development of healthcare infrastructure & logistics networks.
The WHO continues to provide an annual interactive data study on global snakebites and has set a series of goals relating to snake bite envenoming it hopes to reach by 2030.
Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
For over 70 years, the CDC has been the United States "leading science-based, data-driven service organization" dedicated to protecting public health.
The Global Snake Bite Initiative (GSI)
The GSI is a non-profit, charitable organization registered in Australia with a global membership with the goal of providing a collaborative framework to address the neglected public health issue of snake bites.
Health Action International (HAI)
An independent, non-profit, charitable organization that conducts research and advocates for progressive policies that promote access to adequate and quality medication for everyone.
Australian Venom Research Unit
Established by Professor James Angus in 1994, the AVRU deals with researching all venomous creatures found in Australia and developing effective medications and countermeasures.
What snake bites are the most common?
Snake bites can be divided into two categories;
- Dry Bites
- Venomous Bites
These are the bites where snakes do not release venom with the strike.
Bites from non-venomous snakes are the best examples of dry bites. Sometimes, there can be instances where venomous snake bites are also dry bites.
However, bites from non-venomous snakes can contain germs that could infect the wound. Therefore, clean the wound and take all the necessary steps to treat the injury.
(Tip: If a venomous snake has bitten you, do not assume any bite to be a dry bite. Follow all the necessary first-aid steps and let a trained medical professional make the final determination)
As the name suggests, venomous bites are instances where the snake transmits venom to the victim through the bite.
Venomous bites can be divided further based on the toxins transmitted by the snake. They are;
- Neurotoxic venom
- Hemotoxic venom
It is a venom that attacks the victims' nervous system. Prolonged exposure can result in nerve and brain damage and muscle paralysis.
Snakes such as the King Cobra, Black Mamba, Inland Taipan, and Eastern Brown Snake are some of the snakes that store neurotoxic venom.
This venom damages the victim's circulatory system and muscle tissue. Swelling in the wound area, haemorrhages, and necrosis are all common symptoms of hemotoxic venom.
Rattlesnakes and Pit Vipers are the species that release hemotoxic venom when hunting and in self-defence.
(Tip: If you encounter a snake, create as much distance as possible between yourself and the snake. Snakes are more likely to leave the area than seek a confrontation. Attacks are made as a last resort.)
Where do most snake bites occur?
Continuing human encroachment into the wilderness means that coming into contact with snakes is inevitable, whether in an urban jungle or a rural community.
Snakes can be found in all continents except Antarctica. As a result, snake bite cases are reported all over the world.
Here are some statistics that will help you grasp the magnitude of the snake bites locally and globally.
- Snake envenoming is characterized as a neglected public health issue by the WHO in most tropical and sub-tropical nations.
- Snakebite envenomation was classified as a neglected public health issue back in 2009.
- The exact number of global snake bites is unknown. But the WHO estimates that 5.4 million individuals are bitten yearly and over 2.7 million envenomings.
- According to the WHO, 81,000 - 138,000 individuals die yearly from snake bites. (lack of access to antivenom and proper healthcare infrastructure significantly contribute to the high number of deaths)
- Three times as many amputations or other permanent disabilities directly result from snake bites.
- Most envenomations take place in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
- In Asia, up to 2 million individuals become victims of snakebite envenomation.
- In Africa, there are over 500,000 envenomation cases yearly, at least 30,000 deaths and many more cases of permanent disabilities.
- Farmers, Women, and Children of low/middle-income nations are the most vulnerable to snake bite injuries.
- Scientists label the saw-scaled viper as the deadliest snake in the world. According to estimates, it is responsible for more human deaths than all other venomous snakes combined.
- Australia's Inland Taipan has the world's most potent venom. It has a murine LD 50 value of 0.025 mg/kg SC.
(Lethal Dose 50% Test - the test used to calculate venom potency. The LD50 value is ascertained by dosing several groups of animals with the substance utilizing force-feeding, injection, or inhalation)
- Around 3000 snakebites are reported annually.
- Approximately 13% of snakebite cases require the use of antivenom treatments.
- Australia has an average of 2 snakebite fatalities per year.
- Nine human fatalities were reported in 2018, making it the deadliest year in terms of snakebites in Australia.
- SnakeMap, the Australian veterinary snakebite registry, reported 624 snakebite cases among pets. (419 dogs, 245- cats)
- 88% of pets have reportedly survived incidents involving venomous snakes.
- 25% of dogs bitten by snakes were of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier variety.
- Australia is home to around 140 species of terrestrial snakes and 32 species of sea snakes.
- Over 100 snakes are venomous. However, approximately 12 have venom potent enough to kill a human.
- The Eastern Brown Snake accounts for 60% of snakebite deaths in Australia.
- The majority of snake bites happen in regional and rural areas.
What happens when a snake bites you?
When venom is released into the target via the fangs, it travels through the bloodstream attacking tissue/ nerves (depending on the venom).
From the bite site, the venom can travel throughout the body. If left untreated, the venom will cause the halting of vital function and the shut down of organs, ultimately resulting in the victim's death.
The venom can travel through the body if left untreated, causing organs to shut down and halt vital function. It Ultimately results in the death of the victim.
The symptoms can vary depending on the type of snake. However, common symptoms may include,
- Puncture marks at the wound area.
- Redness, Swelling, Bruising, Blistering, or Bleeding at the site of the snakebite.
- Severe pain and tenderness.
- Nausea, Vomiting, and diarrhoea.
- Increase in heart rate
- Lower blood pressure
- Weak pulse
- Laboured breathing (extreme cases will see breathing stop altogether)
- Disturbed vision
- Increased salivation and sweating
- Numbness or Twitching around the face and limbs.
- Metallic, mint, or rubber taste on lips.
Seek immediate medical attention if you or someone you know has become a snake bite victim. Before taking to the hospital, implementing the necessary first aid is vital to increase the chances of survival.
Refer to Things to do when bitten by a venomous snake, where we discuss the first-aid procedure involved in dealing with snake bites and the dos and don'ts in such situations.
Who is more dangerous, adults or juveniles?
Contrary to popular belief, it is the juvenile you should watch out for more.
While venomous snakes are generally dangerous, juveniles are more dangerous than adults due to their lack of control.
With age comes maturity and wisdom. Older snakes can control the venom they inject into a victim and don't go overboard.
On the other hand, juveniles lack the experience to control the dosage and can sometimes inject more than the usual amount.
Are there treatments for snakebites?
Antivenom (also antivenin or venom antiserum) is the primary treatment for snakebite envenomation.
Antivenom is only administered to a patient in cases with significant toxicity or a high risk of toxicity.
The antivenom administered to a patient depends on the type of snake that caused the injury.
Antivenom has gone on to save many lives. However, the treatment can sometimes result in severe side effects such as serum sickness and allergic reactions.
A snake bite can be a harrowing experience; the lack of knowledge and awareness makes it even worse.
As we mentioned above, knowledge is power. Identifying the snakes you encounter and taking all the necessary steps to avoid a confrontation can impact your chances of survival.
Above all, whatever happens, remain calm, follow the correct steps, and all will be well.