Doctors in the emergency room at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital have seen 11 patients with snake bites in the past three months, prompting officials there to warn area residents to be cautious.
Carla Tollett, marketing director, said those numbers include three patients seen in May, three in June as well as five confirmed patients treated in July.
“We are seeing an increase of snake bites,” Tollett said, adding there also was one confirmed case earlier this spring.
Of the latest 11 snakebite wounds, three were reported to be bites from a copperhead snake, while two of them were rattlesnake bites, she said. The types of snakes for the other six bites were unknown, Tollett said.
And while Tollett initially had some theories on a possible cause of the snake bites being related to all the cleaning up of tornado areas, she said they discovered that wasn’t the case at all.
All of the cases have involved people being involved in everyday activities and circumstances, she said, such as those who are enjoying summertime outdoors or activities in the woods, or even something as simple as walking outside at night.
According to the OSU Extension Service, there are 46 species of snakes native to Oklahoma. Of those, 15 percent are potentially harmful to humans. Venomous species include the copperhead, cottonmouth, western diamondback rattlesnake, timber rattlesnake, prairie rattlesnake, western massasauga and western pigmy rattlesnake.
Tollett said a treatment for snake bites, Crofab, works by binding the venom toxins and moving them away from the site of the bite and eliminating them from the body.
She said Crofab has also been shown to prevent or reverse the progression of local and vascular tissue damage, as well as blood-clotting problems associated with snake bites and neurological problems that can occur as a result of a snake bite.
And while it is necessary, the treatment for snake bites is very expensive, she said.
Tollett said the patient usually receives an initial dose from an IV that uses either four or six vials. A six-vial treatment costs about $22,000, she said, while a four-vial course of treatment is about $14,600.
After the initial dose, an IV with two viles every six hours is usually needed, she said, at additional costs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, snakes can be more prevalent in some areas after a natural disaster, especially if they have been forced from their natural habitats.
While it’s been an unusually rainy summer in Oklahoma, including some flooding, snakes also are more prevalent and active in hot summer months.
The CDC reports that if someone suffers a snake bite, it is helpful to remember the color and shape of the snake.
Page 2 of 2 - Signs of a snake bite can include:
• A pair of puncture marks at the wound
• Redness and swelling around the bite
• Severe pain at the site of the bite
• Nausea and vomiting
• Labored breathing (in extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether)
• Disturbed vision
• Increased salivation and sweating
• Numbness or tingling around your face and/or limbs
After a bite, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible, with someone applying first aid if the victim can’t get to the hospital right away.
Keeping the person calm can help with treatment as it slows down the spread of venom.
Other tips include the patient lying down with the bite below the level of the heart, and covering the bite with a dry dressing.
While awaiting medical treatment, the CDC reports there are things not to do:
• Do not pick up the snake or try to trap it
• Do not apply a tourniquet.
• Do not slash the wound with a knife.
• Do not suck out the venom.
• Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water.
• Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller.
• Do not drink caffeinated beverages.