27 June 2011
Posted in NatureWorks
Florida is home to 45 snake species and 6 of those kinds are venomous snakes! There are two types of venomous snakes in Florida, the Crotalidae, or pit vipers, and the Elapidae. Included in the family of pit vipers are the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Canebrake Rattlesnake, Pigmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin), and the Copperhead. The venom of these snakes is hemotoxic, that is, it destroys the red blood cells and the walls of the blood vessels of the victim and degenerates organs and tissue. The Elapidae, represented in Florida by the Eastern Coral Snake, have neurotoxic venom. This attacks the nervous system of a victim, bringing on paralysis.
With all these venomous snakes just in Florida it would be a good thing to have some of the new ointment being developed by scientists in Australia. Quickly applying a nitric oxide-containing ointment near the bite slows the spread of some venoms. While still only in research stages, this treatment might someday be the difference between dying on the road and getting to the hospital in time.
Worldwide, snakebite causes approximately 100,000 deaths and 400,000 limb amputations each year. Foot-to-groin venom travel times increased from an average of 13 minutes without ointment to an average of 54 minutes with the ointment applied. For now, especially in the United States where death from snakebite is much more rare than the rest of the world, the most proven and effective first aid for venomous snakebite is a call to 911 or a set of car keys. In the future, the combination of ointment and pressure treatment might be the best way to slow the spread of snake venom!
To learn more about snakes, check out our NatureWorks exhibit! Not only do we have plenty on display, but enthusiasts who are eager to share their time and knowledge!