Snakes on the move ? Dry weather forcing them into open

By BOB ANTHONY Jnr

TWEED medical staff are bracing themselves for a busy time with regard to snakebite incidents as dry conditions force the reptiles into urban residential areas in search of food and water.

There has already been one fatality due to snakebite earlier this week and a suspected second bite was reported on a young child on Thursday evening.

Normally, Tweed and Murwillumbah hospitals would receive, on average, about four snakebite victims in a season, according to one health spokesperson, and they are usually in the hotter months of December and January. However due to the unseasonally dry, warm spring, there have been increased reports of snakes on the move, coming into urban areas.

With the Tweed and Northern Rivers home to some of the nation's most venomous snakes, Tweed Hospital emergency specialist Dr Michael Lattimore said it was vitally important that the public understood correct procedures, not only in treating snakebite but also what to do with patients.

"The most important aspect of treating a snakebite is in applying a pressure bandage to the victim from the point of the bite to the extremity," Dr Mattimore said.

"Apply a bandage firmly but not tightly and keep the victim relaxed and still.

"Where applicable, try and get help to come to the patient rather than moving them. Ambulance officers have a certain protocol to follow with regard to snakebite, but it is usually treated with the same urgency as a heart attack or stroke."

Dr Lattimore said that in the majority of snakebites, people aren't injected with venom even though it still may be on the skin.

"It is also important not to clean the area but rather leave any venom on the surface because this will help in identifying the snake and the type of antivenene required," he said.

"We treat every snakebite as serious, regardless of the type of the snake.

"There is no point waiting around to see if you are going to be alright or trying to get the snake to aid identification. This can be done at the hospital.

"Both Tweed and Murwillumbah hospitals carry stocks of antivenene suitable for the types of snakes we have around here and can obtain more from Brisbane or Lismore if needed."

He said the best way to avoid snakebite was to avoid snakes.

The majority of recorded bites in Australia came from people trying to kill snakes.



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