Man hospitalized after snakebite

Copperhead Snake (file image) (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

July 22, 2011 1:43:58 PM PDT
Snake encounters seem to be on the rise this time of year in the Triangle.

A Morrisville resident says he was recently bitten by a venomous snake when he tried to protect his dog.

Keith Matthews had just left his house to walk his pet when he encountered a snake on the sidewalk.

"I went over there to pick up the snake to get it away from everybody, and I got bit in the process," he said. "Well I didn't know it was poisonous, so I thought I was going to protect my dog and my neighbor, so that's what I was thinking."

When his hand starting to burn and swell, Matthews says, he searched on the internet for what the type of snake he had seen and learned it was a copperhead - one of North Carolina's most poisonous snakes. Matthews immediately went to the ER.

"By the time I got to the hospital about 20 minutes later, I couldn't use my hand anymore, I couldn't squeeze my fist, I couldn't hold the steering wheel, it just got worse and worse," he said.

A darker spot on his knuckle and some remaining swelling is all that remains from the injury, but it's a huge improvement from the shape he was in while he was in the intensive care unit for two days.

Like most copperhead victims, Matthews was treated with anti-venom.

"A couple days ago, I got the hospital bill and the total was $37,000 and 20,000 of that was just the anti-venom," he said.

Since Matthews was bitten, three more copperheads have been spotted and killed close to his home.

Two near where he was hurt, while a third one actually slithered up onto a deck.

Phil Bradley, who is the Education Living Collections Curator at the North Carolina Museum of Living History, says it's typical to see more snakes this time year.

"As the weather warms, snakes become more active, their prey is more active and we are as well," he said.

So what can you do to avoid being bitten?

"Wear close toed shoes, that gives you a measure of safety if you do encounter them," Bradley said. "And become more aware that these animals are out there, and become familiar with their patterns."

Snakes are more active at dusk and dawn and they are attracted to certain areas such as bushes, shrubs, or near bodies of water.

Also try to keep yards free of clutter and simply be aware while spending time outdoors.

When it comes to products that supposedly repel snakes, experts say there are no known remedies, such as sprays or putting down moth balls that are known to work.

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