Australian hospital urges snakebite victims to stop bringing snakes when seeking treatment over safety concerns

An Australian hospital requested that people stop trying to catch snakes when seeking medical attention after one patient came into the hospital carrying a snake in a loosely locked box. “We honestly don’t want people interacting with snakes any more than they already have,” Dr. Adam Michael, director of emergency medicine at Bundaberg Hospital near Brisbane, told the Australian Broadcast Company. “Any attempts to either get close to a snake to catch or to kill, or to photograph the snake, just puts people at risk.” About 3,000 people suffer suspected snakebites annually, according to the National Institutes of Health. Only between 100 and 200 cases end up requiring anti-venom. Michael related an incident where one victim brought an eastern brown snake with them, carrying the serpent in a plastic food container that was “not very well secured.” The snake tried to get out, which ended up frightening hospital staff. He also cited examples of patients bringing in snakes contained in plastic bags and even less-secured plastic containers. The hospital then had to pay for the snakes to be relocated to the wild. “We want people to be able to get seen and assessed quickly and having a live snake in the department slows up that process,” Michael said, assuring that doctors do not need to see and identify the snake in order to treat poisonous bites. “We can determine if it was a snake bite and if so, what anti-venom you need based on clinical signs, blood tests and also the snake venom detection kits that we keep here at the hospital,” Michael stressed. “We’re actually not trained to identify snakes, and so it’s not helpful. It just puts the staff at risk as well as yourself.”