Snakebite drama in Ramsgate

2010-12-17 00:00

IN some cases the Good Samaritan comes off second best.

As reported in local media yesterday, Shane Pike received a nasty shock while attempting to save a snake from passing cars as it tried to cross a Ramsgate road on December 1.

Pike mistook what turned out to be an extremely venomous stiletto snake, otherwise known as a burrowing asp, for a harmless water snake.

He realised his mistake when — despite taking hold of the snake from behind its head, which normally prevents a snake from biting — he felt the snake twist its head and bite his right forefinger.

Stiletto snakes are part of the Atractaspididae family and fall under the Atractaspis genus.

What makes them unique is that, instead of having fixed fangs that can only bite down, they have solenoglyphous or pipe-grooved fangs which can swing sideways out of the mouth instead of downwards from the roof of the mouth.

Terrence Whittle of Pure Venom in Izotsha explained to The Witness yesterday why stilettos are the only snakes that can bite from the sides of their mouths.

Although they normally spend most of their time underground, they are not uncommon in the coastal region because of its warm climate.

The venom of the stiletto snake is particularly dangerous. According to Whittle, it contains both cytotoxic venom, which attacks tissue at the location of the bite, and a neurotoxin, which acts on the nervous system and the brain.

Everybody reacts differently to a snake bite. Some people have little reaction to the bite, while in other cases amputation is necessary, said Whittle.

He said that of the six stiletto snake bites he has seen on the South Coast, Pike’s bite has “definitely been the worst”.

After realising that the bite was serious, Pike drove himself to the Margate Netcare911 Private Hospital from where he was taken to Port Shepstone Provincial Hospital because he is not covered by medical aid.

By then, his arm had swelled to such an extent that he had to receive lacerations to his right forearm and bicep to reduce the pressure and prevent gangrene from setting in.

“The treatment that Shane has received is normally only done for puffadder bites, but he should definitely keep his arm,” said Whittle.

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