India's Alarming Snake-Bite Fatalities

The Usual Suspects in Death Toll in Asia and World

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The beautiful and deadly banded KrateDeath reaches out.  The Black Mamba is world's deadliestCommon Krait: known to bite you in bed!Green Tree Viper.  Often bites women working in tea plantationsMost magnificent venomous reptile.  Noble King Cobra.  Rarely attacks man.Saw Scaled Snake.  Evil reputation in Africa and Asia...killed thousandsMilking snakes for venom to make anti-venom (or anti-venin)Russells Viper: most deaths in India lain at this reptiles doorIndian Cobra:  Revered and not a major player in death countGaboon Viper  Huge fangs and irritable disposition if disturbed.  Note triangular viper head common in all vipers such as rattlers etc.Showing horrendous and life-altering necrosis resulting from Puff Adder bite.  The attractive Copperhead Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth) showing reason for nickname
The beautiful and deadly banded Krate
The beautiful and deadly banded Krate | Source
Death reaches out.  The Black Mamba is world's deadliest
Death reaches out. The Black Mamba is world's deadliest | Source
Common Krait: known to bite you in bed!
Common Krait: known to bite you in bed! | Source
Green Tree Viper.  Often bites women working in tea plantations
Green Tree Viper. Often bites women working in tea plantations | Source
Most magnificent venomous reptile.  Noble King Cobra.  Rarely attacks man.
Most magnificent venomous reptile. Noble King Cobra. Rarely attacks man. | Source
Saw Scaled Snake.  Evil reputation in Africa and Asia...killed thousands
Saw Scaled Snake. Evil reputation in Africa and Asia...killed thousands | Source
Milking snakes for venom to make anti-venom (or anti-venin)
Milking snakes for venom to make anti-venom (or anti-venin) | Source
Russells Viper: most deaths in India lain at this reptiles door
Russells Viper: most deaths in India lain at this reptiles door | Source
Indian Cobra:  Revered and not a major player in death count
Indian Cobra: Revered and not a major player in death count | Source
Gaboon Viper  Huge fangs and irritable disposition if disturbed.  Note triangular viper head common in all vipers such as rattlers etc.
Gaboon Viper Huge fangs and irritable disposition if disturbed. Note triangular viper head common in all vipers such as rattlers etc. | Source
Showing horrendous and life-altering necrosis resulting from Puff Adder bite.
Showing horrendous and life-altering necrosis resulting from Puff Adder bite. | Source
The attractive Copperhead
The attractive Copperhead | Source
Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth) showing reason for nickname
Water Moccasin (Cottonmouth) showing reason for nickname | Source

Snakes help curb world population!

India's Alarming Snake-Bite Fatalities.

Imagine if the UK, the USA or even Australia – with more venomous snakes than any other continent – were reporting 250,000 bites from venomous snakes per year, 50,000 of which proved fatal!

This is the true and alarming state of affairs in India, despite herpetologists working with laboratories and producing gallons of anti-venom said to be efficacious in treating bites from the “Big Four,” the serpents responsible for 80% of the deaths.

India is charitable to all its domestic and wild creatures. It reveres the Indian Cobras, for example, (of which there are three species). The people fear yet admire the world's largest venomous snake, the King Cobra, and while they don't treat this majestic snake with the familiarity of the more common and much smaller cobras, the snake and residents who meet it generally pass by on an amicable footing. Luckily, for a creature that possesses sufficient venom in one bite to kill 20 adult humans and one large elephant!

Of about 2000 species of snakes world-wide, India has 272, 80% of which are non-venomous. That leaves 58 species which are venomous.

King Cobras seem to possess perhaps more intelligence than other reptiles; they rarely bite humans, although they hiss like a dog growling and raise themselves 6 feet from the ground, shake-out that famous hood, watching you eye-to-eye, so to speak. This gorgeous creature is an enemy to most other snakes; feeds commonly on non-venomous snakes and will even kill and devour large venomous specimens as well. They could easily be described as having a noble nature, rather like the king of beasts, the lion. Victims who do get bitten seriously by the 'King will not live without fast treatment.

Note I said “seriously.” Herpetologists have found out fairly recently that snakes biting for defence don't inject usually all their venom, or as much as they do to kill large prey. Many victims have survived because of this diffidence from the reptile.

So the “Big Four,” those providing the chilling statistics throughout India.

They are the Indian Cobra, the Common Krait, Russell's Viper and the nasty natured Saw-Scaled Viper.

Yes, there is an anti-venom available to treat all four, individually or, poly-covalently, all at once.

Yet thousands are still dying in agony, in hospitals as well as away from medical help in the rural tea and rice plantation areas.

One reason for this, say experts, is the venom for a given species at one end of the country may vary so sufficiently to necessitate changes in the anti-venom – rather as virus can mutate or change in other was needing a different course of treatment.

Most deadly bites occur at night as rural dwellers wander around without light and foot covering to the outhouse, etc., and step on a hunting snake causing it to bite hard defensively. The Russell's and Saw-scaled vipers are high on the list of usual suspects in these cases.

Kraits are especially lethal. Their neurotoxic venom is the second most venomous in the world – 10 times stronger that that of the cobras – and there seems to be a lot of evidence to say they bite victims while they are sleeping.

The Russell's Viper is no slouch in the venom department – number 5 in the world – and one of the fastest striking snakes of all: it and the Saw-scale tend to bite to kill and both are active at night. The large and strong Russell's will take any prey is believes it can overcome and swallow, including cats and small dogs, rather like the non-venomous python diet...they possess a large volume of available venom!

One well camouflaged specimen adding to the death toll is the beautiful Green Viper which tends to live in areas like tea plantations where it will bite any hand or foot is sees as a threat. Aren't these amazing stats, though? Add the deaths to those lost on India's killer roads, it's a wonder their birthrate is still soaring as it is. Nothing can stop man's suicide by procreation it seems!

The country with the most venomous snakes is Australia. Yet there are only a couple of fatalities per year there! The world's most venomous snakes, along with the African Mambas, are the Taipans, yet there has only been relatively few deaths from these two species. The Brown and Tiger snakes are the pair responsible for the most deaths in history.

The main reason, perhaps, is the fact that Aussies live in five large population centres and the Aboriginal rural population was probably much more of a danger to the snakes than they were to the Bushmen! (Hurry home, Roo, mum's cooking Taipan tonight!).

Curiously, on the whole, the Australian snake's fangs are shorter than their Asian brothers and they inject far less venom. This may be due to the fact snakes have little predation on them in Oz., and their prey is substantially smaller, taking less venom to subdue. (Old world tarantulas and scorpions have worse venom than New World species!).

Also, anti-venom was patented early in Australia and efficiently administered nation-wide. There have only been 53 deaths from all snakes in Oz. In the period 1979 to 1999. For all that, the word “Taipan” strikes fear into all whom live in that country!

Sub-Saharan Africa is the next worse case after India with a sobering 32,000 deaths PER YEAR. (The USA averages 7 deaths year on year).

There are some extremely lethal serpents in Africa, including the world's most venomous, the terrifying and ferocious Black Mamba. (The snake is not black; the inside of it's mouth is). The worst in volume of fatalities, as in India, is our pal, the Saw-Scaled snake. The Mambas and the Saw-Scale, as well as others, strike to kill, strike several times with lightning speed, and tend to release all their venom (up to 600 mg in the larger species – enough to kill a football team!). This accounts for the high percentage of fatalities with these snakes – up to 60% across the board. If you are bitten by a Taipan (unlikely) or a Black Mamba (not so unlikely) you will die, 99% of the time without treatment, in hours.

Witch doctors must account for adding to many deaths. Their treatment often consists of cutting into filthy, swollen limbs; toes and fingers, and smothering the bite site with dung, assuring the victim of secondary infection.

It amazes me how Africa's population still increases all the time with the predation by crocodiles (1000's per year), death by snake, scorpion and spider bites, along with diseases carried by mosquitoes and reduuvid (Tsetse Fly Trypansiamosis), HIV, Ebola, political assassinations, starvation, filthy water, drowning in the Med., and all the rest. I would head for Europe, too!

Snakes rarely single-out man for early death. Their strikes are defensive and most seek to deter rather than injure. The exceptions are mothers guarding eggs or young, and the most common cause of snakebite, bare feet treading on a hunting snake at night. Indians and Africans, etc., surely know of the danger but still continue to ignore the risks.

Snakes are found in all areas of the globe except the Antarctic, (no venomous snakes in New Zealand). Even the UK has it's Adder, a viper with a nasty venom which has rarely resulted in death.

The US has its Rattlesnakes (vipers) and its Copperheads and Moccasins, etc., but none who are generally “out to get ya!” Anti-venom is available everywhere and good after care and most people are wary and stay clear of the occasional serpent in their way. Most of the US witch doctors are confined to plastic-surgery clinics!

The also-rans:

African Horror Show

The Black Mamba, also fastest snake and can move faster than you can run at 12 mph!

Puff Adder. Causes more deaths than any other, equal to Saw-Scaled..

Boomslang. Short, fat, large fangs and lots of venom

Gabon Viper. 2-inch fangs, longest of all venomous snakes, highest venom storage as well.

South American Menace.

This continent has none of the most venomous snakes, but many that can kill you if untreated.It does have one serpent whose name strikes fear into all who must venture into deep jungle areas. This is the “Silent Bringer of Death,” the Bushmaster. Very aggressive and territorial, as well as being the second largest venomous snake in the world. High incidence of fatality due to insistence of attack and distance from clinical aid. Specimens up to 14 feet have been recorded and it employs haemotoxin delivered by 1 ¼ inch fangs.

The most venomous of all?? Some Sea Snakes, luckily timid and peaceful. Note: The venom from box jellyfish and Blue Ringed Octopus are worse than any land reptile...sea prey moves fast and needs potent venom to control, and you need a good jolt to keep a Great White off ya!

Notes from Wikipedia: Antivenom (or antivenin or antivenene) is a biological product used in the treatment of venomous bites or stings. Antivenom is created by milking venom from the desired snake, spider, insect, or fish. The venom is then diluted and injected into a horse, sheep, rabbit, or goat.

Answering Comments re: Water Moccasins, (also called Cottonmouth)

Several US readers have spoken about this member of the Pit Viper family. The name cottonmouth comes from the white interior of mouth seen while defending.

Bites from this snake are rare and also rarely result in death, although the nasty cytotoxic venom can cause a host of woes from renal failure to limb necrosis. (it is not neurotoxic though). They are semi-aquatic and fairly territorial. Often confused with the less dangerous Copperhead.

Many harmless Watersnakes (which usually dive and swim away rather than stand their ground) have been mistaken for Moccasins and stoned by the mob!

Leave snakes alone whenever possible! They do a wonderful job in keeping down other nasties and are wonderful and beautiful! Not slimy, their skin feels like velvet. They were here first, by 150 million years and more!



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Comments 26 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 15 months ago from North Texas

Cotton mouths (water moccasins) here in Texas are territorial, and if you get in their territory they will stalk you and attack.

Just about my bedtime, but saw your new hub pop up. Very good info on snakes. They sound a lot like our politicians, but more ethical.

Hope you are well, Sir. Take care . . . xx


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Misty: Interesting, I didn't know that about Moccasins. I am fine, just old!

Hope all is well with you.

Bob x


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 15 months ago from New York

Water moccasins are the poisonous snakes in my area as well.

I've always had a healthy respect for snakes, though I don't like them very much, now I know I'll stay away from them. It is sometimes hard to identify the moccasin here so the best bet is stay clear of all snakes.

How sad there are still so many deaths from snake bites.

Thanks for the education Bob.


thumbi7 profile image

thumbi7 15 months ago from India

Very good information on snake bites in India. I do see a lot of patients getting admitted to our unit with viper bites. Do not exactly know which type of viper. Most of them land up with renal failure.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 15 months ago from Home Sweet Home

So scary, good thing that snakes are in the zoo


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 15 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

I never saw a coral snake until I moved to Central Texas. We have killed about 10 of them in the last 20 years here. I hate to kill them, but they are just too dangerous to our pets.

We have also seen one very large Cotton Mouth water moccasin in our creek. It was dead and about 8 feet long! Since then, we have avoided the creek.

There have been a few rattlesnakes around here too, but they tend to stay hidden in the brush.

Good article. Everyone needs to know about poisonous snakes.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks Mary: I rather like and admire snakes, so efficient and nothing wasted and they leave us alone if we don't invade their space. Best to keep away from reptiles, they have no way to show compassion or affection.

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks thumbiz. Yes, vipers are a great problem as are the others mentioned in my article. I admire Indians for their compassion towards wild creatures

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Peach Purple...Yeah...lot more outside though!

Bob


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Star: Huge Moccasin! Venomous snakes do not easily kill canines and felines with their venom, but large venomous and non-venomous snakes can use venom and huge jaws to swallow small pets. Their venom will kill a horse easier than a cat!

Bob


Genna East profile image

Genna East 15 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

I didn't realize the King Cobra delivered such fatal venom in one bite. Wow. I guess they are the lions of the desert. The Black Mamba is famous for its lethal nip. It's amazing how different cultures in diverse surroundings deal with these creatures. Bare feet are clearly a no-no, but it seems that those unfortunates who are walking think that being bitten might happen to everyone else but them. "Most of the US witch doctors are confined to plastic-surgery clinics!" Lol. Truly an interesting article, Bob. Thank you.


tirelesstraveler profile image

tirelesstraveler 15 months ago from California

Rattlers are our local snakes. As long as the snake is an adult the bite isn't too terrible. Baby snakes give all they have. Last summer a guy at the lake was bitten by a baby rattler his little kids had picked up. He was just out of jail and swore that snake bite was worse than any knife wound or gunshot wound ever. His arm swelled twice it's size by the time the life flight arrived. The things we do for our kids.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Genna. A 'King won't deliver all its venom in one bite...that would be up to 600 mg! But the potential is there. The mambas have a very nasty venom and folks often get bitten in the bush, far from help; in hours, they need burying.

It all happens to the next bloke, doesn't it!?

Bob x


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi TT. That's right, baby snakes are dangerous because of that fact. Most rattlers have haemotoxic venom, all Vipers have nasty venom with the necrotic factor. Even bites which aren't fatal (most) can cause awful and long lasting damage. Snakes need to be left severely alone...even the "non-venomous" ones can bite hard with a secondary infection danger.

Bob


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 15 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

When we lived in the big piney woods of South Carolina, it was my job to kill rattlesnakes, and we had plenty. The most dangerous were the ones called 'sand rattlers' because they were so small and blended in so well. By the time we left, I had a matchbox full of rattles. Dad gave me a shotgun for Christmas to be used as my snake killer, but I found that a hoe with a razor-sharp edge was more effective.

But they were nowhere near as deadly as the snakes you described!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Heck of a job, Will! Wide variety of types and strengths of rattler venom. The big desert rattlers can inject you with 500 mg of venom - enough to kill all of the Dallas Cowboys and maybe the cheerleaders as well! But they'd sooner you stayed apart and they give plenty of warning. I'll have a look at the type you described and get back to you on them.

Bob


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 15 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

We had three varieties on our SC property...the eastern diamondback, the timber rattler, and the tiny (pigmy) sand rattler. I killed all three while we were there, but the sand rattler was by far the most numerous.

http://www.neoperceptions.com/snakesandfrogs.com/s...


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Will: Is that South Carolina? Yes, because it's the Western Diamondback in Arizona. Had a quick look at my snake books. That Eastern Diamond back can be a nasty critter indeed, arguably one of top three heaviest and longest venomous snakies in the world! Bad venom, necrotising, clotting, etc. About 25% fatalities after bite. (That's super high). You're where? Arizona now? More rattlers there than any other state (13 species of 36 US species). Many species are only mildly venomous and 5 are protected. The Mojave Rattler has worst venom but doesn't bite a lot. The Western Diamondback has the worst record of bites and fatalities in the US!.

Happy snake dreams...Freud said they were about sex!

Bob


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 15 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I was never afraid of snakes in a phobia sense, but I have a healthy respect for the dangerous ones. If I spot one in the wild, I give him a wide birth. The only ones i killed were a threat to my family.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

I understand Will, if you have kids, you've gotta keep them off the property as far as possible. They can't seem to use any smarts at all in India

Goodnight (here)


moonfroth profile image

moonfroth 15 months ago from Rural BC (Canada) & N of Puerto Vallarta (Mexico)

Hugely informative, Dio. And well-written, as we expect from you. I had no idea, absolutely no idea about the shocking number of deaths in India. I have numerous Indian poet friends, and I'll betcha t hey are as uninformed as I am. Was.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 15 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Clark, good to see ya. The world seems to be slipping out of control fast - if it ever was in order since mankind began to proliferate like this... maybe snakes are doing the rest of us a favour! I have calculated these are up to 45 million people hoping to relocate to Europe and the new world in the next five years from "failed state" Africa and the Middle East! And these idiots are talking 100,000! What we see is a drop in the bucket compared to what is to come. Like water, world populations are starting to find their own levels.

Tell the buds in India not to walk around outside at night with no shoes on! (60% of victims). Good luck with the verse.

Bob x


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 14 months ago from Stillwater, OK

We have some water snakes at the lake, and I have photographed several, including one hanging in the bushes over the water. There is claim that poisonous snakes are around, but I have never seen any.


diogenes profile image

diogenes 14 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

It's refreshing to hear from someone who knows the difference! People who live in snake country should familiarize themselves with the dangerous and harmless denizens. The non-venomous (as well as venomous) snakes do a lot of good in keeping down vermin (varmints!?)

Bob


stricktlydating profile image

stricktlydating 14 months ago from Australia

Even though I've grown up in Australia with snakes in the yard every other month (And the odd baby has ventured inside) what you wrote about Kraits might just give me nightmares! Apart from that, a really interesting read!


diogenes profile image

diogenes 14 months ago from UK and Mexico Author

I didn't know Australian babies were so dangerous! (Ha).

They say the Surfer's Trousersnake has caused consternation amongst female visitors from time to time!

Lucky you, in Oz, snakes and all.

Bob

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