Snake bites pose daily danger for people and pets

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – With North Carolina off to a fast start with snake bites in 2017, many people may be wondering how to better protect themselves and their pets.

The Carolinas Poison Control Center reports they received 71 calls about snake bites in April, well above the 19 calls they received in April 2016.

But Dr. Sean Bush, who treats victims of snake bites, said snake bites in the East appear to be on average this year. He said so far, there have been six bites in the northeastern portion of the state, four of which were treated at Vidant Medical Center.

At this point in 2015, there were eight reported bites, up from three at the same point in 2014.

Bush said the best way to protect yourself is by not messing with the snake in the first place. He also recommends wearing pants and closed-toe shoes.

“Snakes less than 18 inches generally can’t bite through a pair of jeans,” he said.

When bitten by a non-venomous snake, Bush said people don’t necessarily need to seek medical attention. But when bitten by a venomous snake, a trip to the emergency department is needed 100 percent of the time.

Bush said the Timber Rattlesnake is the most deadly in the area, requiring quick treatment. If left untreated, it could kill someone within minutes or hours. The most common venomous snake is the Copperhead, which can still lead to health complications.

“They can get swelling. They can get bleeding, and sometimes neurological effects like muscle twitching or weakness,” he said.

When it comes to pets, any snake bite requires treatment, whether it’s venomous or not. Dr. Linda Kuhn with East Carolina Veterinary Service said they’ve already treated two dogs that were bit by a Copperhead this year.

“Baby Copperheads are much more dangerous than adults because the babies unload all their venom on the first bite,” Kuhn said.

Kuhn said dogs are generally bitten on their snout or paws. She said the most dangerous place a pet can get bitten is near the chest, because the venom can reach the heart quickly.

If your pet is bitten, Kuhn recommends staying calm and getting medical attention immediately. However, she said some people may try other things that won’t help at all.

“Do not put on a tourniquet. That’s a no no. Do not try and cut the area and suck the venom out,” she said.

The three most common venomous snakes in the East are Copperheads, the Pygmy Rattlesnake and the Timber Rattlesnake.

Bush said the Pygmy Rattlesnakes can often be seen at Goose Creek Park in Beaufort County.


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