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Girl dies from brown snake bite in Walgett, NSW

Author: Craig Adams
Date: Monday, February 15, 2016

The article below appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald on February 15th, 2016. Our deepest sympathy goes out to the victims family and friends.


A six-year-old girl has died after being bitten by a brown snake in Far North NSW, prompting emergency services to issue a state-wide warning.

The girl was bitten on a property near Walgett about 3pm on Friday.

She was taken to Walgett Hospital, where doctors administered anti-venom, then flown to the Sydney Children's Hospital in Randwick where she was placed on life support.

After her condition deteriorated significantly, she was transferred back to Walgett Hospital where she died on Saturday.

NSW Ambulance and NSW Police have issued a reminder to people to be wary of snakes in warmer months.

Tips from NSW Ambulance include:

  • If you are bitten by a snake, ensure someone calls triple zero immediately.
  • Until help arrives, if the bite is on a limb, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage but not so tight that it will cut off circulation.
  • If the bite is not on a limb, apply direct and firm pressure to the bite site with your hands (it is also important the patient is kept still).
  • Check items of clothing that have been left outside before wearing them and if you lift something such as a rock or log, lift the object so it's facing away from you.

Numbers of eastern brown snakes have proliferated over the years due to large-scale land clearing, which provides a ready supply of rodents for the snakes to feed on, the Australian Museum says.

They are most commonly found in scrublands, rural areas that have been heavily modified for agriculture and on the suburban outskirts of large towns and cities across eastern Australia.

The brown snake causes more deaths from snake bite than any other species of snake in Australia.

Many bites are caused by people trying to kill the snakes or move them, causing the snake to react viciously.

They typically have small fangs but extremely potent venom that can cause progressive paralysis and uncontrollable bleeding that can spread to the brain.

The initial bite is generally painless and often difficult to detect, the Australian Museum says.

Gingin man dies after freak snake bite

Author: Craig Adams
Date: Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Brian Bush is spot on identifying the critical risk factors of brown snake envenomation.

Gingin man dies after freak snake bite

WA Today

Perth Zoo officers have confirmed that the snake that killed a 43-year-old Gingin man was a highly venomous western brown snake.

The snake was originally thought to be a tiger snake, but zoo experts confirmed the species this afternoon. It is the second death attributed to the venomous reptile in two years.

Police spokeswoman Susan Usher said the man was bitten on the toe around 8.30pm on Friday night.

"He was at his home when he phoned someone to say he'd been bitten by a snake and was then taken to hospital," Ms Usher said. He later died in hospital.

Perth Zoo spokeswoman Debbie Read said health authorities brought the 50 centimetre snake to the zoo yesterday and keepers identifed it as a western brown today.

"The keepers were very surprised that the snake was able to inject a lethal amount because its fangs were so small," Ms Read said.

"They are a highly venomous species and it was dead when it was brought here."

Snake handler Brian Bush said the last snake-related death in WA was in January 2009 when a 60-year-old Carnarvon woman was bitten, also by a western brown snake.

"The smallest western brown to kill someone was an 18 centimetre snake that bit a 27-year-old pregnant woman in 1982," Mr Bush said.

He said 11 people had died in WA after being bitten by a snake since 1986.

Health Department spokeswoman Crystal Fairbairn said 77 people had so far been treated for snake bites in WA this year.

Information collected by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital's poisons information centre showed about 100 snake bites were recorded in the state each year, but deaths were rare.

"There have been no recorded inpatient deaths from snake bite over the past 10 years in WA," spokeswoman Clare Chamberlain said.

"On average, there are two deaths attributed to snake bites per year in Australia."

Mr Bush said western brown snake bites were especially dangerous because the victim often didn't feel any symptoms until it was too late.

"With a brown snake you can show no symptoms at all until there's an acute drop in blood pressure and you pass out and a lot of people experience cardiac arrest," he said.

"The western brown is involved in most of our fatalities. They have this predilection to enter buildings to look for mice."

The Red Cross has urged people to be wary of snakes as the weather heats up, with the elderly, children and sick people most at risk.

Those bitten could suffer from a number of symptoms including nausea and vomiting, ringing ears, blurred vision, paralysis and cardiac arrest.

Mr Bush said snake bite symptoms could appear fairly rapidly and that anyone bitten should use bandages or clothing to wrap the affected area.

"I understand this man was bitten on the toe and he should have bandaged that right up the foot and up to his leg," Mr Bush said.

"That closes the spaces in the tissue and traps the venom to stop it travelling through the body."

Mr Bush said while anti-venom stocks were sufficient in southern WA, regional hospitals often had limited supplies.

"Our tiger snake anti-venom works pretty good but the brown snake one isn't the best because it's made from snakes from the eastern states," he said.

"It can take up to 20 plus ampoules of anti-venom (to treat western brown snake bites)."

Extract taken from WA Today. Read the enire article here.

Image Courtesy: Jannico Kelk

Man dies trying to Kill Snake WA

Author: Craig Adams
Date: Tuesday, December 09, 2014
This tragic story told below emphasises two very important facts of Australian snakebite.  

Firstly, it is obviously very dangerous attempt to kill snakes.

Secondly, and this fact is far less understood, one must never assume that the often trivial appearance and symptoms of snakebite a reliable indicator of its seriousness or lack thereof.  This is particularly true of brown snakes which, due to their relatively small fangs and specific venom properties bites often look insignificant and may be virtually pain free.  It is always best to assume nothing and treat all suspected snake bites as a medical emergency and apply immediate first aid. 

Article below is an extract from ABC digital web written by Rebecca Curtin, 14th October 2014: 

Man dies after snake bites him on hand, arm in WA's Goldfields

A man has died after being bitten by a snake in West Australia's remote Goldfields region.

Police said the 41-year-old man was bitten while trying to pick up what was believed to be a western brown snake.

The officer in charge, Senior Sergeant Heath Soutar, said the man was bitten multiple times including on his hand and arm.

Sergeant Soutar said the man did not seek any medical attention after being bitten.

"He didn't seek any medical attention despite other people being in the area and trying to assure him that he needed medical attention," he said.

"He ended up going to a campsite very close to town and ended up collapsing approximately half an hour to 45 minutes later."

Police and an ambulance crew went to the site where the man had collapsed and performed first aid.

He was taken to the Laverton hospital where he was later declared dead.

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.


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.''

Rise in Snake and Spider Bites Across NSW

Author: Craig Adams
Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Ambulance and Paramedics are calling for greater awareness of the presence of snakes and, importantly, of knowing what to do, how to react and stay calm in a snakebite emergency...and above all, how to administer life saving first aid.  Learn to be calm, effective and in control by attending SSSAFE training, as nothing beats live snake demonstrations and practical advice delivered by an expert.

Tiger Snake (pictured) was once Australia's leading cause of snake bite mortality, now overtaken by the Eastern Brown Snake (image courtesy of Ian Norton).


Spike in snake and spider bites across NSW

Coffs Harbour Express Advocate

19th Mar 2013 1:30 PM

There has been an increase in snake bites in NSW and brown snakes feature highly in the statistics.  AUSTRALIA'S reputation for deadly snakes and spiders has again been proven.

In NSW over the past six months, NSW Ambulance paramedics have responded to 424 incidents where people have been bitten, some which have proven fatal.  On the Coffs Coast, a 60-year-old man died last week after he was bitten by a rare yet highly venomous Stephen's banded snake at Kalang. The man was isolated by floodwaters when he was bitten a fortnight ago. Police said this hindered the rescue operation and the man's immediate access to anti-venom.   A local reptile handler, meanwhile, was also involved in a car accident at Bonville earlier this year after he was bitten by a Rough Scaled snake. 

Over spring and summer there have also been multiple spider bite incidents involving Northern Rivers funnel webs and red backs. To highlight the danger posed by snakes and spiders, NSW paramedics will on Wednesday launch a public awareness campaign. The NSW Ambulance Service is compiling a breakdown region-by-region to highlight which species are more prevalent when it comes to bites in particular areas of the state...

 Extract taken from today's Coffs Harbour Express Advocate, a similar article can also appeared in the Daily Telegraph.


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