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Biggest ever' antivenom dose saves boy bitten by funnel-web spider in Australia



Author: Craig Adams
Date: Saturday, February 25, 2017

The below article was taken from Sky News Friday 24 February 2017. For those of you who are uncertain of how to treat a suspected funnelweb spider bite, use the same first aid method as you would for a snakebite: apply a compression bandage to the affected limb, immobilise the victim and seek urgent medical attention.


A 10-year-old boy is lucky to be alive after surviving being bitten by one of the world's deadliest spiders.

Matthew Mitchell required what is believed to be the largest dose of antivenom ever administered in Australia - 12 vials in total - after experiencing numerous convulsions.

The youngster from Berkeley Vale in New South Wales was helping his father clear out a shed at their home when he was bitten on a finger by a funnel-web spider which was inside one of his shoes.

"It sort of clawed on to me and all the legs and everything crawled around my finger and I couldn't get it off," he told Australia's Daily Telegraph.

His family rushed him to hospital where he was given the antivenom - an unheard-of amount, according to the Australian Reptile Park, which runs a antivenom milking programme.

"I've never heard of it, it's incredible," the park's general manager Tim Faulkner told the Australian Associated Press on Friday.

"To walk out of hospital a day later with no effects is a testament to the antivenom."

The funnel-web spider is native to Australia and can kill a human in less than 15 minutes.

"It would have been a fatal bite (without antivenom) there's little to no doubt of that," said Mr Faulkner.

"A small child is more vulnerable - but that bite would have killed an adult."

The offending spider was captured and taken to the reptile park, located north of Sydney.

Last month the facility released a video showing people how to collect funnel-web spiders safely.

The park is the only supplier of venom to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, which provides medical professionals with the antivenom to cure snake and funnel-web spider bites.

To keep up the supply of venoms the staff regularly 'milk' more than 300 snakes and 500 spiders that are included in the programme.

A zoo in Australia wants people to catch deadly spiders. Here's why



Author: Craig Adams
Date: Friday, February 10, 2017

The below article was taken from TRT WORLD Thursday 9 February 2017. Unlike other spider bites a Funnel web spiderbite it to be treated exactly the same as snakebite with a Pressure Bandage and Immobilisation. Naturally we recommend the SMART Bandage as the best tool for the job."


Australia’s only supplier of anti-venom has run out of stock after a dramatic increase in spider bites. It wants people to catch spiders so they can be milked for their venom to produce the lifesaving antidote.

How did they they run out of venom?

Not enough funnel spiders were donated to The Australian Reptile Park’s anti-venom programme, last year.

A recent heat wave also encouraged more spider activity and bites, the reptile park's general manager Tim Faulkner said.

"We have tried to catch enough spiders ourselves and we just can't."

How dangerous is it to catch a spider?

If someone is bitten by the funnel spider, the large fangs and acidic venom will make the bite painful. A major bite can lead to death within an hour if left untreated.

But the reptile park says there is a safe way to catch deadly spiders and all you need is a wooden spoon and glass jar.

"With an appropriate jar and a wooden spoon, you can flick the spider into the jar so easily," Faulkner said.

Avoid using plastic containers as spiders can bite their way out.

While Australia has a bad reputation for its long list of deadly animals, the reptile park said there have been no deaths from funnel-web spider bites since the anti-venom programme began in 1981.

How is a venom turned into an antidote?

The venom is secreted through the spider’s fangs, and then collected.

The park delivers the venom to a division of a blood plasma and vaccine maker, which converts it into the life-saving antidote. The antidote is administered to those bitten by poisonous spiders.

Mum tells how brave Eli cheated taipan death



Author: Craig Adams
Date: Friday, February 10, 2017

The below article was taken from The Observer Thursday 9 February 2017. Snakebite is a medical emergency and calls for an immediate response. Symptoms can progress quickly in children. A well placed compression bandage ASAP may effectively delay the onset of envenomation and significantly improve the prognosis.


"This isn't where it ends."

Those are the words Brittany Cervantes used when she was told to say goodbye to her two-year-old son who had just fallen into cardiac arrest.

Moments earlier Eli Campbell was bitten three times by one of Australia's most deadly snakes, a taipan.

With an irregular heartbeat and falling into cardiac arrest, Brittany Cervantes was told her son would die.

But, defying doctors beliefs, the Agnes Water boy survived.

Speaking to The Observer in their first interview since the tragedy, Brittany recalled the moments she almost lost her only son.

On the morning of September 26 while checking for eggs in the chicken pen, Eli paused and cried to Brittany "ow, ow, ow".

That's when Brittany saw something that would send shivers down any parent's spine.

"There were these two little blood spots, tiny (on his right leg), and then I saw two more," she recalled.

"I had him sitting on my lap and I could feel him slowly start to go.

"His ears were going purple and within 15 minutes he was vomiting."

Within the next 30 minutes, after paramedics arrived, Eli fell in to cardiac arrest.

"I just remember (my partner) Giles saying 'look now we have to say goodbye' and I just kept saying 'this isn't where it ends, he's going to be an older brother'."

"They stabilised him, I don't know how, and then he was onto the ambulance onto the gurney getting him ready for the flight to Bundaberg."

But Eli's fight was far from over and he was flown to Bundaberg Hospital in a serious condition, and later to Lady Cilento Children's Hospital in Brisbane.

In the days that followed Giles, a former CSIRO scientist, and Brittany, a massage therapist, were told Eli would make a full recovery. But that hope was short-lived.

"In days we were told he was going to make a full recovery to 'your child could be blind'," Brittany said.

"That was devastating ... all your dreams are just shattered into a million pieces."

Five months on, and living in Brisbane to be closer to therapists and specialists, Eli is in the last days of his six-week rehabilitation and doing "remarkably well".

They are in a transition from hospital living to being independent, while still seeking specialists and therapies to help his recovery.

But the near-fatal snake bite will have life-long impacts.

Eli now has epilepsy, which is on anti-seizure medication for, after the taipan attack, and the family is still learning the extent of his brain injury.

With little other information about the impacts of snake venom on children, it's been a learning curve for Brittany, Giles and medical professionals.

Eli has learned how to live again, from swallowing to walking and talking. Prior to the attack Brittany said he excelled with numbers, but now his focus is on learning shapes and colours.

"I just can't believe it that this little boy is sitting in the room with us, it's unreal," Brittany said.

"There's moments where I look at him and think did any of this even happen, did we just imagine it all.

"He has this spark, this shine, he just seems so spot on."

The former Agnes Water woman said they were yet to return to normality.

But she's hopeful that will come with the expected arrival of their second child on March 24.

"It changes the way you look at your kids," Brittany said.

"You don't mind if your house is dirty, it doesn't matter about the silly mundane things.

"It's about your kid and doing the absolute best you can for him."

Each day Eli does exercises to improve his mental and physical strength.

The two-year-old, described as a cheeky toddler, has captured the hearts of people around the world who have donated money to help his recovery.

A GoFundMe page set up by Agnes Water friend and neighbour Blake Hyland has received more than $70,000 in donations.

The money has helped pay for appointments with specialists and will be used for his ongoing therapy.

"This has allowed us to relocate to where we need to be and get access to therapies and equipment, and to be able to really focus on our son," Brittany said.

Australian man bitten by taipan snake dies after six days in hospital



Author: Craig Adams
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The below article was taken from The Guardian, Tuesday 27 December 2016. The question raised by many of these cases is wether or not snakebite first aid was immediately and correctly applied. The Pressure Bandage + Immobilisation technique has been proven to delay the spread of venom into the system. Snakebite is a medical emergency requiring an immediate response:

  • 1) check for danger
  • 2) commence first aid

Australian man bitten by taipan snake dies after six days in hospital

David Pitt, 77, went into cardiac arrest after highly venomous reptile bit him on the foot in his home in far north Queensland.

An elderly man bitten by a taipan at his home in Queensland has died after spending nearly a week in hospital.

David Pitt, 77, went into cardiac arrest after the highly venomous snake bit him on the foot at his home in Yorkeys Knob, Cairns, on 20 December.

Pitt was attempting to remove the snake which had slithered into his lounge room when he was bitten. He was revived and taken to intensive care at Cairns hospital but died on Boxing Day.

The coastal taipan is Australia’s largest venomous snake, with some adults growing two metres long.

Hunter Valley Woman Dies of Brown Snake Bite



Author: Craig Adams
Date: 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.''


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