VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Police and health officials in Virginia raced against time to help save the life of a man in Richmond who was bitten by his own pet viper, listed as one of the deadliest snakes in the world.
According to Virginia State Police, they got the call from the Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department requesting the “expedited delivery” of anti-venom treatment from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center.
Police say the man was bitten by his own pet snake overnight. The snake, an African Pit Viper, also known as a Gaboon Viper, is listed as one of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world.
“The concern is with these snakes that are not endemic to our area — are not native to our area — is if these patients require treatment with anti-venom, is trying to locate the anti-venom and then trying to get it to the health care facility,” said Natasha Tobarran, D.O., with Virginia Poison Center.
VCU hospital had already given the man anti-venom treatment from the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C., however, officials said they still needed to give him another dose in order to “save his life.”
A State Police sergeant was able to get the anti-venom from an employee at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and rushed it from Virginia Beach to Richmond.
“The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center provided 35 doses of anti-venom for emergency transport by state police to the VCU Medical Center,” Mackenzie Di Nardo with the aquarium, told WAVY TV 10.
She said the Virginia Aquarium keeps anti-venom as a safety precaution, which is common practice for zoos and aquariums that care for exotic, non-native species.
The treatment was then provided to VCU emergency personnel in a short period of time.
We’re still working to learn more regarding the man’s current condition.
There was a similar incident a few weeks ago involving a Wilmington, North Carolina man. A paramedic and a doctor helped save the man’s life after he was bitten by a venomous Gaboon viper.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Gaboon Vipers, which can grow to nearly 7 feet and weigh up to 18 pounds, are extremely venomous but typically docile.
Staff at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News say it is rare to get bitten by a snake in the wild. Leaving one alone when you see it could save you a trip to the hospital.
“The majority of the snakes that you find, especially in your backyard, or in your crawlspace or wherever, even sometimes make their way into people’s garages, are completely harmless. The other big thing is that snakes, in general by nature, are not aggressive animals,” said Kortney Jaworski, Herpetology Curator at the Virginia Living Museum.
While the African Pit Viper is not native to Virginia, there are three native venomous snake species: the copperhead, the timber rattlesnake and the water moccasin (also known as the cottonmouth.)
Although experts say snakes typically avoid people, if you do get bitten, go straight to the hospital. They have most anti-venoms for snakes found here.
“None of the old wives’ tales apply. So don’t try to suck the venom out. Don’t cut it open. Don’t, don’t put a tourniquet on it. Especially don’t put a tourniquet on it because basically what you’re doing is isolating that toxin,” said Jaworski.
Exotic pets are allowed in the commonwealth, but owners need a special permit.
“When you have these very dangerous animals that you bring into your house, you’re kind of assuming that risk with that,” added Jaworski.
Before you bring a non-native animal home as a pet, research the basic requirements and make sure you’re allowed to have the animal by law in the United States.
Check WAVY.com for the latest updates.