Don’t bring us the snake that bit you, Australian hospital says

Subjecting hospital staff and patients to the snake that bit you won’t help your treatment–and it might even obstruct your care, doctors told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) earlier this month.

Australia is home to some of the most venomous snakes on Earth, including the inland taipan and eastern brown snakes, yet reports of fatal snake bites are relatively rare on the continent, with bites documented only a couple times per year. Still, there are around 3,000 reported snake bites per year in Australia and as many as 500 of those cases require antivenom treatment, as noted by Business Insider.

After any snake bite, Australian health officials say victims should immediately seek medical care; but trying to catch, kill, or photograph the snake after a bite “just puts people at risk,” said Dr. Adam Michael, the emergency medicine director at Bundaberg Hospital in the north-eastern state of Queensland. 

“We want people to be able to get seen and assessed quickly and having a live snake in the department slows up that process,” the director told ABC. He spoke to the news outlet after a patient brought in a “not very well secured” eastern brown, which he said had frightened staff and ultimately caused delays.

Hospital staff aren’t trained to identify snakes, said Dr. Geoff Isbister, who leads clinical toxicology research at the University of Newcastle near Sydney. Still, the researcher told ABC that he’d heard of multiple incidents in which victims brought snakes along with them to the hospital after a bite. “If that snake gets out in an emergency department, that becomes a huge disaster,” Dr. Isbister said.

Instead of inspecting the snake itself, medical staff assess if victims need anti-venom “based on clinical signs, blood tests and also the snake venom detection kits that we keep here at the hospital,” Dr. Michael added. 

Neither doctor spoke to the exact number of incidents they’d observed in which a snakebite patient brought their assailant in tow. However, local snake catcher Jonas Murphy told ABC that he’s personally “relocated several snakes brought into the Bundaberg Hospital,” the outlet wrote. Murphy echoed the doctors’ reasoning in a comment to ABC.

“You are risking a follow-up bite and you’re putting everyone around you in danger as well,” the snake catcher explained.

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