Antivenom vials delivered to VCU Medical Center after man is bitten by African Pit Viper

African Pit Viper. (Source: National Zoo)
African Pit Viper. (Source: National Zoo)(Source;National Zoo | National Zoo)
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:08 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:32 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The condition of a man hospitalized at VCU Medical Center is still unknown after his pet, a venomous African Pit Viper, bit him over the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon, Virginia State Police said they were contacted by VCU Police for help to get an expedited delivery of antivenom treatment from the Virginia Beach Aquarium.

According to VSP, the man was treated with antivenom treatment from the National Zoo, but another dose was needed to save his life.

According to a spokesperson from the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, 35 vials of antivenom were given to a state trooper to take to VCU Medical Center. The spokesperson also sent the following statement to NBC12:

“Anti-venom is maintained at the Virginia Aquarium as a safety precaution for staff as the Aquarium cares for exotic, non-native species. This is common practice for zoos and aquariums that care for exotic animals as exotic anti-venoms are not commonly found in general hospital settings. A supply of anti-venom remains at the Virginia Aquarium to continue operations safely.”

Details about the man’s condition, the whereabouts of the African Pit Viper, and the events leading up to the snake bite are still unknown. NBC12 reached out to VCU Police with these questions and received the following statement:

“VCU Police received a request from VCU Health for transport of an antivenom, at which point VCU Police reached out to Virginia State Police for assistance with the transport. We have no additional information to provide at this time. As with any inquiry related to patient conditions at VCU Health, if you have a patient name, we can check whether a patient condition is available.”

With details still limited in this case, NBC12 also reached out to experts to learn more about the snake and venomous bites.

The African Pit Viper, also known as the Gaboon Viper, is one of the top ten deadliest snakes in the world, with fangs two inches long, making them the longest fangs of any venomous snake.

Melissa Stanley, the founder and director of Richmond Wildlife Center, said this snake species is docile, calm and a passive hunter.

“It’s not in their nature to be aggressive,” said Stanley. “They wait for a small bird or a small animal just to cross their path, and then they strike.”

Stanley also said the African Pit Viper could choose to release its venom and how much. She believes this species of snake could bite for one of two reasons.

“Either they were threatened in some way or handled inappropriately where they felt like they were going to be harmed, or if they’re not being fed enough food or on a regular schedule,” said Stanley. “The first hand that goes in or the first object that goes in, they’re going to be so hungry that they strike.”

Dr. Michelle Troendle with Virginia Poison Center said when it comes to a bite from any venomous snake, every second counts.

“It can cause edema or swelling to the limb,” she said. “It can also cause toxicity to the blood, where the patient bleeds easily.”

Dr. Troendle said the most common antivenom for snakes found in North America is CroFab.

“This is available at hospitals quite readily,” she said.

However, for indigenous species, Dr. Troendle said outside resources would be needed.

“If a snake is not native to the United States, then hospitals are unlikely to contain the antivenom required in these instances,” Dr. Troendle said. “Phone calls would need to be made to zoos or aquariums where they are stocked.”

If a snake bites you, Dr. Troendle said you should get to a safe area, identify the type of snake that bit you, and start first aid immediately as you call for help.

“Elevating the limb, getting the toxic out of the limb where it is doing any tissue damage is extremely important,” she said.

Dr. Troendle also suggests not sucking the venom from a snake bite, which could introduce bacteria into your wound and cause an infection. She also said not to place an ice pack on the snakebite because it can cause the vessels in the wound to constrict, keeping the toxin localized to the limb where it’s causing tissue damage.

Localities can also make ordinances when it comes to owning exotic animals.

Copyright 2022 WWBT. All rights reserved.

Send it to 12 here.

Want NBC12’s top stories in your inbox each morning? Subscribe here.