Clinic Stories

Non-Standard Snake Bites – Cape Cobras

An earlier story told how snakes bite victims tend to be either unlucky hikers that get bit on the leg or young drunk males who get bit trying to grab a snake There are some who do not fit these groupings.

In Africa, deaths from Cape Cobra bites are fairly common. To westerners, it seems incredible for two reasons. First, the Cobra warns people by raising up, fanning out it's neck and hissing loudly when approached. If you stay still, the snake will escape and will not attack. Second, where the cobras are common, all doctors keep the antivenom on hand. Although death can sometimes within one hour, doctors claim that nearly all people can be saved if they are treated within two hours.

So with clear warnings to prevent bites and effective treatment widely available, why do people die? Unfortunately, because it is Africa. Nearly all bites occur at night. Visitors use flashlights or head lamps when they go out at night and can see the Cobras. Locals do not use flash lights, do not have indoor plumbing and go out in the dark at night. When nature calls, another part of nature bites. But there is still the treatment option. Again this is Africa. They are mistrustful of doctors and are often superstitious choosing death over treatment.

With all of the sophisticated technology available to treat the world's woes, it is remarkable that a flashlight can save lives.

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