Snakebites - Who Gets Bitten & Who Dies?

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Many people dread snakes – so much so that they actually avoid going outdoors to fish, hunt, hike, or picnic. Others, out of a misplaced fear, will kill every snake they see. This is unfortunate because it’s fairly easy to avoid direct encounters with snakes.

Snakes are reptiles, and like their relatives, lizards and crocodiles, are covered with scales, are legless, cold-blooded, can swim and have been around for millions of years. All snakes eat other animals, while some snakes even eat other snakes. But snakes, even venomous ones, are important to the environment and help to control populations of rodents and other pests.

Snakebites are Rare

As an outdoor enthusiast, it’s really only a matter of time before you will encounter a snake in the backcountry. But contrary to popular belief, snakes are not in the business of looking for people to bite. Despite their sinister reputation, snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. Most snakes do not act aggressive toward humans without provocation. Although many harmless snakes will bite to defend themselves, usually their bite produces nothing more than simple scratches.

Venomous Snakes

Only about 400 of 3,000 snake species worldwide are poisonous. These venomous snakes are most prevalent in temperate and tropical climates, with April-October being peak snakebite season. About 25 species of poisonous snakes are found in North America.

The Risks of Dying from a Snakebite

The chances of dying from a venomous snakebite in the United States is nearly zero, because of the high-quality medical care in the U.S. Fewer than one in 37,500 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the U.S. each year (7-8,000 bites per year), and only one in 50 million people will die from snakebite.

In North America, approximately 10-15 people die per year as the result of a venomous snake bite. The risk of dying from a venomous bite increases when multiple bites are involved and when the bite occurs in the very young, old, or in persons with underlying respiratory or cardiovascular problems.

Compare this with the 11,000 reported deaths that occur in South Asia each year, accounting for over half of estimated snakebite deaths worldwide. Poor, rural areas that lack appropriate medical care and the correct antivenom contribute to this high number of snakebite fatalities.

Who Gets Bitten By Snakes?

In the United States, a significant number of people who are bitten are the ones who handle or attack snakes. The majority of poisonous snakes in the US are pit vipers. Rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouth (water moccasin) snakes are in this family, known as Crotalidae. Typically, pit viper victims tend to be young males, 11-19 years old, who are bitten on the hand while trying to pick up the snake. People attempting to take a “selfie” with the snake are at high risk of being bitten. Alcohol has also been shown to be a common factor in these incidents.

For Venomous Bites: Antivenom is the only proven therapy for snakebite but only when it is specific for the snake involved.

DO NOT try to kill or capture the snake for identification purposes.

Dead snakes, even several hours later, can reflexively bite injecting venom causing either a second bite or biting another member of the group. Use your smartphone to get a picture of the snake instead.

Follow Up

As with any deep puncture to the skin, infection is a concern. The wound should be irrigated and cleaned at a hospital emergency department or emergency health clinic. The person who is bitten by a snake may need a tetanus shot. Tetanus boosters should be given every 10 years.

Take Global Rescue with You

Wherever you travel, Global Rescue encourages you to study of your destination and research the native flora and fauna that might be harmful. Be prepared and expect the unexpected. And it you travel to a remote area, take a Sat Phone with you.
That cape cobra I met last year, never heard it was not supposed to act aggressively :eek:

Don't you know, you are not supposed to look them in the eye! :ROFLMAO:
+2 on the cobras ran into 2 cobras and my buddy killed a big ass puff adder, So don't tell me there are no nasty ass snakes in Africa that might like to bite me! I wanted to shoot the cape cobra but was told if I missed it would be really pissed off and come for me and I better be able to really run fast. I decided not to risk a pop at it and it went into a bush and I went the other way. the other cobra was just cruising across our path and paid us no mind and I it! thanks for the snake info but no thanks if I see them they mostly will die!!!!!!!!!! been near bitten several times :(and just nicked once by copper head wasn't fun:confused: trip to hospital
I ran into a 16 inch Puff Adder in Namibia in Sept. I couldn't hear him because of my hearing loss, my PH is the one that told me about him. Later he showed me the snake, he couldn't have reached me from where he lay being the size he was. Just glad.
Mamba was taken out of this bow blind the week before so I didn't bother this guy all day! Think it was just a lizard but he seemed happy so I left him alone!

Have no use for these things!
gee guys,they only want to snuggle.
As the survivor of a serious Timber rattlesnake bite, I have no use for poisonous snakes. I have heard that death by Mamba in Africa is not uncommon. I never want to meet one, and his buddy the famed Cobra can stay away as well. My theory is they cannot be a threat if their dead
When I was in Honduras, I heard about how to use a stun gun against snake bits. I have copied an article I found about it

April 21, 1991

The following is a summation and series of quotes from a two part
article that appeared in OUTDOOR LIFE magazine. The name of the
article is "A Shock Cure for Snakebite" and was written by Larry
Mueller. Part 1 of the article was in the June 1988 issue and Part 2
was in the July 1988 issue.

Back issues of OUTDOOR LIFE can be purchased by writing OUTDOOR
LIFE, Back Issue Department, P.O. Box 54733, Boulder, CO 80233.

The price per back issue is $4.00. A cheaper way out is to call the
OUTDOOR LIFE home office at (212)779-5000 and ask them to send you a
copy of the article. They will do this free of charge but you may
have to tell them that you are a subscriber to their magazine.


Part 1


The first part of the article tells several stories of cases where
high voltage DC was used to treat snakebites. In the first case,
Dr. Daryl Neans, a veterinarian of Pflugerville, Texas, tells the
story of a rancher who brought in a dog that was bitten on the face
by a rattlesnake 30 minutes earlier.

The dog's face had started swelling and because Dr. Neans had
previously read an OUTDOOR LIFE article about the treatment, he
connected a wire to one of the spark plug wires of his truck then
grounded another one to the frame and used the two wires to shock
the "dog's face half a dozen times around the bites."

The treatment seemed to relieve the dog's pain, but "for insurance,
Dr. Neans had followed the shock treatment with the usual cortisone,
antibiotics, and tetanus antitoxin, but he's convinced that the
shock had already effected the cure."

The article explains why Dr. Neans believes in the cure:

"Body tissue is negatively charged, snake venom is slightly
positive, and unlike charges attract. If ionization of the
venom molecules is altered by electrical shock, he reasoned,
perhaps they can't attach themselves to animal tissue and
destroy it."

Dr. Markus Kryger had read about the treatment in a medical journal
when he opted to use it on courthouse employee in southwestern
Missouri who was bitten by a copperhead just outside the courthouse.

He used jumper cables attached to the spark coil of his car to treat
the wound after giving the woman a tetanus shot and disinfecting the
bite. "Within the hour, the puzzled patient was back at work."

Dr. Kryger became convinced that electrical shock could deactivate
snake venom because of the chemistry of the poison. Besides
proteins and enzymes, venom contains copper and other trace metals
whose electrical properties could be easily upset by high-voltage
shock, thereby possibly uncoupling what makes the venom work.

Dr. Ronald Guderian is a missionary doctor from Seattle who is given
credit for being the first to use high voltage DC to treat
snakebite. He has "successfully treated more than 60 cases in the
Esmeraldas Province of Ecuador."

Based on Dr. Guderian's experience it seems that if the treatment is
received within 15 to 20 minutes after the bite has been inflicted
then the pain stops almost immediately and no swelling will occur.

If swelling has already started, then it stops and the pain soon
subsides. Dr. Guderian typically uses a Nova Technologies stun gun
with one of the electrodes modified so that the current can be
passed directly through the limb by placing an electrode on each

"All of the successful treatments have been performed
with 20,000 to 25,000 volts or more." It has to be DC voltage, too.

The article expresses a concern that someone with a pacemaker might
be killed if they were shocked with the voltage from and ignition
system. The frequency and duration of the pulses of an ignition
system, it is feared, might scramble a pacemaker. "The only
medically tested shocking device that is safe for almost all people,
including those with heart pacemakers, is the Stun Gun, made by Nova
Technologies (2207 Braker Lane, Austin, TX 78758, 512-832-5591)."

only venomous snake of this kind in the United States is the coral

The article warns that the high voltage DC shock would not be
effective against the neurotoxins in the venom of snakes such as the
cobra and coral snakes.

Dr. Guderian's success has been with using the Stun Gun made by Nova
Technologies. The FDA won't let Nova advertise the stun gun as a
treatment against snakebite until further testing has been achieved.

There has been some trouble with reproducing the effect of the
treatment in the laboratory. It has been proposed that the reason
that the treatment has not worked in the laboratory is because those
who were doing the testing were using one of the many imitation stun
guns imported to the US from Taiwan or South Korea.

Another factor in why the treatment does not work in the laboratory
is that, in the laboratory, it is tested on small animals. In the
words of Dr. Guderian, "Think about it. Snake venom evolved for the
purpose of quickly killing prey. Humans are not snake prey: we
just get in the way some times. There may be biological differences
causing small animals to be more susceptible than humans to venom.

Or it may just be a matter of our much larger size. ....When a
small animal is snakebitten, all of it's biological systems shut
down so fast that nothing can be done to stop it. When a human is
bitten, he has a local reaction, followed by pain, swelling, and
possible death perhaps 24 hours later."

The Japanese have reported to Dr. Guderian "that his shock treatment
works on people bitten by their venomous snakes." He has also
received letters telling of success stories in Peru, Columbia,
Argentina, New Guinea and Africa.

As an explanation for why the treatment works, the article cites a
Texas chemist who suspects that electro-phoresis is taking place.

In electro-phoresis a high DC voltage is applied to a substance to
dissociate the compounds in that substance.

"Snake venom is a complex combination of proteins, enzymes
(which are proteins with biological activity) and metal
ions....The positively charged proteins travel toward the
negative terminal, and the negatively charged proteins
migrate toward the positive connection....The chemist
suggested that high-voltage shock would cause enough
separation to render the venom inactive."





This second part of the article opens by describing the experience
of Jim Scroggins, vice-president of Nova Technologies, when he took
a trip to Ecuador for the purpose of verifying the incredible claims
being made by Dr. Ronald Guderian in regards to the ability of the
Nova Stun Gun to treat snakebite.

On a hike through the jungle to visit an indian village, Jim was
bitten on the arm by a conga ant. The conga ant's "venom can cause
a limb to swell so badly that it can't be used for days."

Jim claimed the bite felt like "five wasp stings in the same spot."
He shocked the wound with a stun gun and "within 30 to 60 seconds
the pain was gone."

Even though conga ant bites are supposed to swell the whole limb,
Jim had no swelling, only a discolored area the diameter of a

Dr. Guderian began the high voltage DC shock treatment, not on
snakebites, but originally on stings and bites from scorpions, ants,
bees, wasps, and other kinds of insects.

In the beginning he used the ignition systems of outboard motors and
chainsaws to treat the stings, but he later was sent a portable,
battery powered "buzzer-and-coil" setup from a friend in Indiana.
Later on the same friend sent him several Stun Guns to try out.

While Jim Scroggins was in Ecuador, a girl was stung on the toe by a
scorpion and given the shock treatment with a stun gun. After a few
minutes the pain was gone and the girl left the emergency room.

After Scroggins got home from his trip to Ecuador, his wife was
working in the yard when she was bitten on the hand by four fire
ants. "Donna starts getting a reaction to just one fire-ant bite in
about five minutes. Then, she goes into anaphylactic shock and
can't breathe."

In the rush to go to the hospital, the Scroggins took time to treat
the hand with "two quick half-second zaps" from a Nova Technologies
Stun Gun.

On the way to the hospital, the pain had stopped, so they turned
around and went home. "There was little or no swelling, perhaps one
third of what she usually gets from a single bite."

Dr. Guderian has found out through various sources that shocks have
been used to treat scorpion stings for years in places like India.
40 years ago, people in Nigeria who were stung by scorpions were
commonly shocked with the ignition system of a motorcycle.

High voltage DC can be used to treat other things as well. While in
the city of Esmeraldas, Dr. Guderian had the opportunity to treat a
child who had been stung on the back by a stingray.

He used a wire connected to an automobile's ignition coil and 20
minutes after the treatment the child was back in the water again
playing as if nothing had happened.

A Dr. Stoddard talked to by OUTDOOR LIFE points out that bacteria,
like venom, is largely protein. So are viruses. In Europe, acne is
being treated with electricity.

Dr. Guderian has treated boils with high voltage DC. According
to him, if a boil is treated before it comes to a head, the swelling
and reddness will be gone in three to four days.

Dr. Stoddard even suggests that in the future rabies may be treated
with electric shock.

Dr. Guderian is amazed at how well the shock treatment works to
relieve pain. He suspects that the pain deactivation process is
separate from the deactivation of the poison.

The article tells the story of a Texas woman who suffers from severe
migraine headaches and voluteered to be treated with a stun gun.
She was shocked on the back of the neck and once on each side. The
pain went away, but in the morning it was back, only this time much
weaker. The process was repeated again and the pain totally

It is proposed in the article that, "the same high voltage shock
that upsets the electrical charge of venom proteins may upset the
charges in body proteins that signal pain to our brains."


Submitted to KeelyNet by Michael McQuay
EXCELLENT, thanks Mike!!

I have a video of the cobra I almost stepped on last March in SA. Didn't know what it was but if I did at the time it would be gotten a solid .300 win mag dosage that day, I do not mess around with venomous snakes!
Your lucky, Cobra are extremely aggressive when approached or threatened. I'm not an expert, but was once young, and stupid, and collected snakes. venomous. and non. Was wanting a career in herpetology after the service. Had friends in that circle that owned Cobra, and others.
One friend that owned a King Cobra said they were the meanest reptiles he owned. I studied the Cobra line a bit in those days. Testing on pure aggression was done by a University somewhere as I recall. Their tests were done to measure the threat from snakes, and the test revealed that the Cobra exhibited the desire to attack man unprovoked, and with a measure of intelligence.
I cannot say I have faced them in the wild yet, but in captivity I have witnessed them, and I would agree with others opinion that know more.
What I have read is the Black Mamba is similar in it's apparent desire to attack man. Maybe others could comment. It has been a long time since I have talked about snakes.
Never met anyone that said: "Gee I miss the Dinosaurs". Doubt things would be much different if the snakes were all gone too.

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