Hello, Rob Raskin of Las Vegas here again, and this week I’m going to share some info with you that is strictly for informational and entertainment purposes. In other words, don’t try this one at home, folks! Approximately 100,000 people worldwide die from snake bites each year, and antivenom is in dangerously short supply, especially in the developing countries where it is needed most. Although in hospitals there is no shortage of antivenom for the venomous snakes that are commonly found in the US, what would you do if you were in the wild and you needed it? If you happen not to be a professional herpetologist and you’ve ever wondered how this is done, here’s the run-down.
Your Risk in the US
Each year in the US, approximately 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes, and most of these are courtesy of the eastern and western diamondback rattlesnake. Luckily for 7,999 of these people, these bites will be non-fatal events. To put that in perspective, fewer than 1 in 37,500 people will be bitten by venomous snakes in the US annually, and only one in 50 million of these people will die, but your risk of being struck by lightning in this country is 1 in 960,000. In other words, you are four times more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to be bitten by a poisonous viper.
Snake Milking 101
Scientists who make antivenom first force a venomous snake to bite down on the lip of a jar that has been specially equipped to collect venom when it drips out of the viper’s fangs. After the deadly liquid is collected, it is injected into horses in small increments, with the dose gradually being increased over time. The horses also receive supervenom to increase the potency of the antibodies they’ll develop in their blood, which is drawn regularly throughout the horses’ lifetimes. Technologists then use sophisticated equipment to make antivenom using this blood.
What This Means to You
It is much easier to avoid snake bites in the first place than it is to milk snakes and inject horses! You can avoid poisonous snakes by wearing large, heavy boots when you are outdoors and by being aware of your surroundings. Learn which snakes are common to your area and how to identify them, paying special attention to where they are likely to live and to their habits. Have a back-up plan in place just in case you do receive a bite, but in the event that it happens, don’t panic: the odds are you’ll be fine. This is Rob Raskin, hoping you found this post entertaining and that you’ll check back again next time to read more.