Bite victims urged to stop bringing snakes to hospital

An eastern brown snake taken to Bundaberg Hospital's emergency department by a bite victim.

An eastern brown snake taken to Bundaberg Hospital's emergency department by a bite victim. Photo: AAP

It may sound like common sense – do not take a snake to a hospital.

But Queensland health officials have issued the unusual warning after a concerning rise in snake-bite victims bringing the reptile responsible to emergency departments.

Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service is urging locals to stop the alarming trend after several instances in recent months of patients arriving with a snake in a plastic container.

Among them was one person who brought in an extremely venomous eastern brown snake.

The bite victims had mistakenly believed bringing the snake would help hospital staff identify the reptile and what antivenom to use.

“We are not wildlife professionals and therefore are not trained to identify a snake even if you bring it to us,” Bundaberg Hospital’s director of Emergency Medicine Adam Michael said.

“Bringing snakes to the emergency department puts not only you but also our staff and other patients at risk.”

Almost 100 people, some victims as young as one, have been treated for snake bites in the Wide Bay district, north of Brisbane, already this year.

“We have seen several individuals arriving with live snakes following snake bite incidents, posing serious safety risks to themselves, healthcare providers, and other patients,” Michael said.

“Such actions not only endanger lives but also hinder timely treatment.”

Health care workers say they are actually able to identify if a patient needs antivenom without seeing the reptile responsible.

“We can determine if you need antivenom, and if so, which antivenom, by using clinical signs, blood tests, and snake venom detection kits, which we have at the hospital,” Michael said.

“Attempts to catch or kill snakes put you and others at much higher risk of bites.”

Michael urged people who are bitten to remain calm, avoid cleaning or moving the affected area and apply a firm pressure bandage.

They should call an ambulance or get to a hospital ASAP – and avoid the snake.

“Most snake bites occur because someone has gone out of their way to interact with that animal,” Michael said.


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