Boomslang bites three

In the wake of an incident in which three individuals were bitten by a highly toxic “boomslang” on the 6th of February near Zeerust in the North West. Experts has warned people not to handle snakes even if they think they are harmless.

Professor Ken Boffard of the Trauma unit says snakes are quite prevalent at the moment, because it is summer and unussually heavy rains in certain areas have helped to distribute them more widely than usual. The three, two local men and a female tourist from Germany and the sickest reported to a local doctor the next morning. The doctor realised the man, who already had a massive blood bleed into his left leg, transfered him to the Netcare Milpark hospital in Johannesburg for specialist treatment. The doctor realised that the other two were also bitten and transfered them as well. They all arrived at the Netcare between 18 and 24 hours after being bitten and their condition on arrival was “critical”.

The “boomslang” is a highly venomous snake and its bite can be fatal. Boomslangs are usually very timid and live in trees and it is unussual for them to bite people. They will only do so, if handeled or intimidated. There is serum for the boomslang and is available from The South African Vaccine Producers.

South Africa does have several venomous snakes including the Cape cobra, spitting cobra, puff and night adders, black and green mambas, stiletto snake and others. Prof Boffars suggests that all bites be treated as a medical emergency. Mike Perry, a snake expert from African Reptiles & Venom advises people that snakes are best avoided and that they should never be handeled. He said people in the bush should protect their lower legs from snake bites. The following are some things you can do in the event of someone being bitten by a snake:

  • Get the patient to a medical facility as soon as possible
  • Keep the victim calm and quiet. Panic can help to circulate the venom through thr body quickly.
  • Immobilise the bitten area and keep it below the heart.
  • Avoid administrating any pain killing or other medication unless on the direction of a qualified medical practitioner
  • Do not allow the patient to eat or drink anything and especially not alcohol.
  • Do not administer snakebite serum unless instructed to do so by a qualified medical practitioner.