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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.


Energy Worker Killed By Snakebite

Author: Craig Adams
Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The below article was taken from the ABC News website @ and was poted by Paul Robinson on Thu Nov 8, 2012 12:58pm AEDT

An Ergon Energy worker who was found dead in central Queensland last week was killed by a bite from a taipan.

Searchers found the body of 57-year-old Andrew Vaughan after he disappeared while checking powerlines last Thursday near Yeppoon, north of Rockhampton.

Ergon says an autopsy has identified a bite from a taipan as the cause of death.

Ergon Energy spokesman Peter Billing says Mr Vaughan had been checking power poles.

"Andrew was working with another workmate and a contract backhoe operator clearing a track to get access to a pole for maintenance work to be carried out at a later time," he said.

"At some stage during those activities Andrew had been bitten by the snake."

Mr Billing says colleagues were in the area but were unaware of what had happened.

"The area they were working in, while it's only perhaps a kilometre off the road, is quite dense," he said.

"There's a lot of lantana and so on.

"Andrew had gone in to that area to find where the track would go to so they could continue the backhoe in.

"At some point in time while he was short distance away from both the backhoe and our other crew member that the incident happened."

Mr Billing from Ergon says risk assessments are carried out for work in the bush.

"We identify snakes and other potentially dangerous animals as part of our working environment," he said.

"Our people live in these communities so they are aware of snakes both in their personal life and their work life.

"There had been a risk management process conducted before the work started and snakes are clearly identified as one of the key risks."

Care Flight Clinicians meet SSSAFE Snakes

Author: Craig Adams
Date: Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Care Flight rescue helicopter service has been saving lives for over 25 years.  Through the training of trauma specialists and senior registrars, this not for profit organization has played a major role in the evolution of critical care transportation in Australia.  Based at Weastmead Hospital, the Care Flight team also has highly trained critical care nurses working from helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in the Northern Territory.

With many snake bites occurring in remote locations, it will be of no surprise that Australia’s deadly snakes are of special interest to the care flight trauma specialists. Naturally SSSAFE was thrilled to be asked to present to these passionate and like minded professionals, who are at the cutting edge of emergency snakebite management.
As always, the SSSAFE snakes were impressive and participants were thrilled to see live venomous snakes up close.  Craig shared his intimate knowledge of snakes different behavioral and physiological characteristics, discussed the outward signs and appearance of snakebite, and the mechanics of envenomation such as fang length, mouth gape and venom volumes.

The evening proved to be an excellent opportunity for knowledge sharing and a variety of topics were discussed including:

  • challenges of managing snake bite emergencies in remote localities
  • latest research and scientific thinking on snakebite first aid
  • pressure bandaging techniques and the importance of immobilisation
  • the best bandages
  • ways to improve public awareness, education and training

A highlight of the night came unexpectedly on the back of event organiser, Justin Treble’s kind offer to have his blood mixed with fresh tiger snake venom!  In the test tube of course, graphically illustrating the catastrophic effects of Australian snake venoms on human blood!  Not for the faint hearted this one.

But the real star of the show, as it so often is, was the highly defensive and agile, eastern brown snake.  In the words of Care Flight Medical Director Dr Alan Garners, “that’s a Bugger of a snake”!  Seemed to sum it up well…

Special thanks to Justin Treble for making the evening a great success, and the whole Care Flight crew who are nothing short of inspirational.

If you would like to learn more about the wonderful work being done by Care Flight or support them by making a donation here is a link to their webpage:


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