Grand Strand Medical doctor, Palmetto Poison Center report snake bite increase

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CAROLINA FOREST, SC (WBTW) – The Palmetto Poison Center in Columbia and one local wildlife medical doctor tell News13 they’ve seen an increase in snake bites over the last few weeks.

The Grand Strand Director of Wilderness Medicine points to several contributing factors to the increase during the pandemic.

Dr. Jarratt Lark says the increase in snake bites corresponds to the state and area reopening, causing more people to be outside.

Just as snakes are coming out of hibernation from the winter, people are too now that things are reopening amid the pandemic. Now, there’s an increase in snake bites.

“There’s a parallel with people coming out of hibernation as well,” said Dr. Lark. “We had a week when it was a little warmer about two weeks ago where we were seeing at least one a day.”

The Palmetto Poison Center in Columbia reports 26 snake bites in April of this year, six more than they had in April of last year.

The Snake Chaser Russell Cavender says he’s had 15 to 20 snake bite calls in the last month or so.

“A lady actually was bitten I think last Friday, and they called me this morning,” said Cavender. “I’m on my way there here shortly, and yesterday, a dog got bit.”

Dr. Lark points to the state and Grand Strand’s reopening efforts as a reason behind the increase, but also that people have been taking advantage of being home since the start of the stay-at-home order.

“Weather wise, as well as from the recent pandemic of coronavirus, everybody’s starting to be able to get out and liberalize their activities a little bit, take advantage of being outdoors,” said Dr. Lark.

Cavender agrees, and says the most common snake he sees, copperheads, are unlike other venomous snakes in the fact that they blend in well with leaf litter, so they will bite if they’re disturbed.

“Everybody’s home, you know, this COVID-19 is basically, you know, taken people from their work and put them in their house and they get bored, so they go outside and they work in the yard and they clean this up and they want to re-do their mulch, they go for walks, you know, and so they are more likely to encounter them,” said Cavender.

Dr. Lark says as long as you stay two to three feet from them, you’re safe. He also points out that people who may suspect they’ve been bitten are having anxiety around having to come to the emergency room out of fear they may catch the virus.

“The ER is a very safe place right now. It’s probably one of the most safe places there is,” he said. “You should have very low anxiety about coming to the hospital to be seen.”

Dr. Lark and Cavender tell News13 it’s important to wear gloves when you’re gardening and to also be vigilant when you’re outside so you don’t get a snake bite.

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