Sun, Apr 21, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Doctors warn against home remedies for snake bites

By Tsai Shu-yuan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Doctors at Veterans General Hospital Taichung branch’s department of toxicology hold snake antivenom products at the hospital on Thursday.

Photo: Tsai Shu-yuan, Taipei Times

People must not provoke or attack snakes in the wild and should refrain from using “midwives’ cures,” but seek medical attention as soon as possible if bitten, doctors said.

Mao Yen-chiao (毛彥喬), a doctor at Veterans General Hospital Taichung branch’s department of toxicology said that the hospital in June last year treated a 50-year-old farmer who said he was bitten by a cobra.

The man killed the snake, took it home and ate it with a herbal liquor in a bid to counteract the venom, Mao said.

However, the alcohol helped the venom spread and 10 hours later he was at the hospital with a swollen left foot and complaining of unbearable pain, Mao said, adding that he was diagnosed with sepsis and necrotizing fasciitis, a bacterial infection that can swiftly destroy skin, fat and the tissue covering muscles.

The man was delirious and had a fever when he was admitted and it took six debridements to clean the wound, department of plastic surgery doctor Lai Chih-ming (賴志明) said.

Blood tests showed that the man was infected with Morganella morganii, a rare event, department of infectious diseases doctors Shih Chih-yuan (施志源) and Liu Po-yu (劉伯瑜) said.

Although the man recovered, cirrhosis had complicated his treatment and delayed his discharge from the hospital by two months, they said.

In a separate case, the hospital treated a patient bitten by a mountain pit viper — Ovophis monticola makazayazaya — administering antivenom intended for people bitten by a pointed-scale pit viper, or Protobothrops mucrosquamatus.

The antivenom had been ascertained as an antitoxin for mountain pit viper venom, doctors said.

When in the wild or crossing territory known to have snakes, people should use a stick to probe long grass, which scares snakes away, Mao said, adding that if bitten, the snake should not be chased.

However, it is important to identify the snake, so its characteristics should be noted or a photograph taken to help doctors administer an appropriate antivenom, he said.

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