Snakebites could be on the rise this fall on Bucks County trails

St. Mary’s Medical Center is warning people walking in the woods this fall to beware of snakes hiding under rocks or in those piles of colorful leaves.

This summer, snakes, including copper heads, have nibbled at this multitude of crunchy cicadas that only appear once every 17 years.

Eating well could help the snake population to multiply and that, along with more people participating in the outdoors during the pandemic, could lead to bites, the hospital notes.

“They could be more active this year,” said Dr Darin Geracimos, chief of emergency medicine at the hospital.

Earlier this year Audrey Weir, 17, from Northampton, was bitten by a brass head while visiting High Rocks Park in Tinicum.

She traveled to St. Mary’s where she was first assessed and then taken by a rescue team to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia where she received several doses of anti-venom medication to reduce the swelling in her. his bitten hand. She’s fine now, her mother, Stephanie Weir, said last week.

St. Mary’s now has a supply of the drug, CroFab, to use if other patients need it, but it’s best not to get too close to a poisonous snake, Geracimos said.

Weir had approached to see the snake since she had had pet snakes.

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Dr. Darin Geracimos, chief of the emergency department at St. Mary's Medical Center, discusses the importance of prompt treatment for snakebites.

“If you are in an area with copper heads, you would want to wear long pants and boots,” he said. And if you see a snake, back away slowly. Copper heads usually only bite when they feel threatened or if someone steps on them without seeing them, as their skin is camouflaged with undertones of brown and orange. They can be based both in wooded areas and in tall grass meadows.

“Most of the bites are on the lower limbs,” Geracimos said.

He said people shouldn’t apply a tourniquet or cut and try to aspirate the venom from the site, but instead call 911 and go directly to a hospital where anti-venom medication is available. He said that the application snake bite911 has a list of local hospitals equipped to treat a snakebite. “you can get pretty sick,” he said, and you need to be watched for at least 12 to 24 hours.

He said that besides the copper heads, other poisonous snakes in Pennsylvania are the wood rattlesnakes and the eastern massasauga snakes, a type of rattlesnake.

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Karen Verderame, animal programs developer at Drexel University’s Academy of Natural Sciences, said copper heads “are so named for their orange / brown head and body. They have hourglass-shaped markings on them. the dorsal side of their body. In general, they are not considered very aggressive. It is always good to leave them a large place because they can be territorial if they are approached, “she said.

She and Ned Gilmore, director of the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the Academy of Philadelphia, said they didn’t know additional copper heads were lurking, but Gilmore said: “If there is an increase in l ‘abundance of snakes in some areas of the Delaware Valley maybe because of the humid and hot weather we had. Plus, many people spent more hours outside and explored different places over the past year. ”

Verderame suggested that it’s good for people to learn how to spot different species of snakes.

“As more and more people venture out on a hike during the pandemic and the good weather, I would recommend learning to identify a copper head. There are approximately 21 species of snakes considered in Pennsylvania. Knowing how to recognize key features. copper heads (orange / brown coloring, crackling hourglass, spade-shaped heads) will help people avoid them when traveling. ” Most of the other snakes in southeastern Pennsylvania are “not poisonous in our area,” she said.

She said the copper heads are a type of pit viper, a group of snakes that have pits that send heat between their eyes and nostrils, and are considered ambush predators. They hide in brush and woodland and use their heat-sensitive pits to detect potential prey.

“Their venom is hemotoxin, which means it attacks tissue near the bite site. It is not considered highly toxic or fatal. Death from a copper head bite is extremely rare. “she said.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that between 7,000 and 8,000 people are bitten by poisonous snakes in the United States each year, but only five die from such bites. But snakebites can lead to permanent injury in some cases, especially with rattlesnakes. “For people bitten by rattlesnakes, 10-44% will have lasting injuries. An example of disability or permanent injury is the ability to use a finger or lose part or all of it,” says L ‘institute.

Geracimos said the snake venom has blood thinning characteristics and that hospitals will perform a blood test on a bitten person to determine if their clotting factor has been affected. It rarely causes bleeding. Anyone bitten by any type of snake should have it examined, he said, and especially if the sore is on the head or trunk or if it causes swelling and tenderness at the site or if the wound is person experiences a drop in blood pressure or vomiting, which are signs of a system-wide response.

And he warned that any bite should be checked if it breaks the skin, as bites from other animals can carry bacteria from their mouths, even if they are not rabid. This also applies to human bites. “If there is a real injury, you should have it evaluated,” the emergency doctor said.

To contact Peg Quann, send an email to [email protected]

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