Black Mamba rated one of deadliest snakes

2019-05-30 06:00
THE Black Mamba never chases people – a rather popular myth, but if surprised or cornered it will bite readily and may even bite more than once. Photo:JOHAN MARAIS

THE Black Mamba never chases people – a rather popular myth, but if surprised or cornered it will bite readily and may even bite more than once. Photo:JOHAN MARAIS

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THE Black Mamba is by far the largest venomous snake in Africa, reaching close on 4 metres and is rated as one of the deadliest snakes in the world.

Well-known Labour Court Judge Anton Steenkamp died as the result of a Black Mamba bite while travelling in Zambia.

According to Johan Marais, chief executive officer from the African Snakebite Institute, the Black Mamba is by no means an aggressive snake and will avoid humans if given the choice. It never chases people – a rather popular myth, but if surprised or cornered it will bite readily and may even bite more than once.

“This snake bites few people in South Africa, but of the dozen-odd snakebite fatalities recorded annually, the Black Mamba accounts for about half of them, the other culprit being the Cape Cobra,” said Marais.

“The venom of this snake is potently neurotoxic and within minutes of a serious bite, victims experience pins and needles in their lips, and often speak of a metallic taste in the mouth followed by nausea, vomiting, a paralysed tongue resulting in slurred speech and excessive salivation. Breathing becomes progressively laboured and if untreated, results in death due to a lack of oxygen.”

What to do

From a first aid point of view, pressure immobilization (wrapping the affected limb tightly with a pressure bandage – not a tourniquet) could delay the onset of symptoms, but a certain amount of skill and training is required to properly apply pressure immobilization.

If the patient stops breathing, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation could be beneficial but for a relatively short period only.

“In the past few months we have had a few Black Mamba bites in South Africa, and most of these patients were treated with antivenom and recovered fully,” said Marais.

The do’s and don’ts of first aid for snakebite are available on the free African Snakebite Institute App – ASI Snakes. Otherwise the App can be downloaded from the website: www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com.

(Issued: African Snakebite Institute)

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