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Hunter Valley Woman Dies of Brown Snake Bite



Craig Adams - Thursday, November 07, 2013

The article below appeared in The Australian November 06.  It attempts to highlight some of the factors that may hinder the early detection of brown snake bites.  Our deepest sympathy goes out to the victims family and friends.

Author: RICHARD NOONE

A WOMAN who died yesterday after being bitten by a snake while gardening at the weekend might not have even known she had the deadly venom in her bloodstream, an expert has warned.

The 59-year-old woman was discovered by her husband in the backyard of the couple's Glen Oak property, northeast of Maitland, on Saturday afternoon. She was rushed to John Hunter Hospital in a critical condition and remained on life support for three days before passing away at 12.30am yesterday.

Tests have been conducted to determine the species of the snake but given the circumstances, the semi-rural location and the fatal result, experts believe it was almost certainly a brown snake. 

Reptile expert and director of Snake and Spider Safety Awareness for Employees Craig Adams said the Hunter Valley was a national "hot spot" for brown snakes.

He said their small fangs and blood-thinning venom meant it was "not uncommon" for victims to dismiss a bite as a stinging nettle or sharp twig only to collapse minutes later.

"The bites are very superficial in appearance, with very little pain around the site," he said.

"It's very easily overlooked, sometimes they don't see the snake and if you've got your hands buried in gardening you might not realise it was a snake at all.''

But what they lack in fangs, Mr Adams said, brown snakes - arguably the second deadliest in the world - make up for with powerful venom. "Symptoms come on very quickly,'' he said.

"Early collapse is a hallmark of brown snake bites … if people are unaware they've been bit it's common for people to have early collapse.''


About the Author - Craig Adams

Craig is a venomous snake expert and former Operations Manager for the Australian Reptile Park. With his wife Jackie, Craig has travelled to remote areas of Australia in search of venomous snakes and spiders for inclusion in the Reptile Park's venom collection program for scientific purposes and for the collection of new data on endangered species. Craig has featured in numerous National Geographic and Discovery Channel programs on the world's most venomous creatures. He worked alongside Steve Irwin as a consultant on his film "Oceans' Deadliest" and continues to work periodically with Steve's best friend John Stainton in an advisory and "to camera" role. Together with Jackie, he has also starred in numerous other television, print media and documentary films and is acknowledged by his peers as the "go to" person in this field.


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