independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Figures reveal snakebite frequency

Data reveals that health officials are contacted once or twice a week about snakebites

Health officials are contacted once or twice a week about snakebites, figures have suggested.

Between 2004 and 2010 the UK poisons service received 510 calls concerning snakebites.

Two in five of the cases resulted in "envenoming" - the injection of poison into the blood stream from a snake's fangs - and 85 of the cases required antivenom.

Half of the queries directed to the UK National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) were concerning adder bites, according to an audit published in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Researchers from Cardiff said that a quarter of bites are from exotic snakes held in captivity.

But the authors of the report cautioned that the true incidence of snakebite injuries in the UK is unknown.

"The majority of snakebite injuries referred to the NPIS were due to adder bites," they write.

"This was not unsurprising given that the adder is the only venomous native snake. We described a higher incidence of injuries from exotic snakes than an older UK study. This may reflect a rise in the number of snakes kept by private individuals.

"Envenoming does not appear to be an inevitable consequence of a snakebite injury. The majority of cases are often asymptomatic.

"Envenoming was reported in 42% of cases in our study and was often characterised by tissue oedema and cardiovascular stress (hypotension and tachycardia)."

Press Association

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