A Macon County man who was twice bitten by a poisonous snake died Sunday at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.
Relatives said 31-year-old Trent Leprette of the Little Texas community, was swimming in the Saugahatchee Creek, near Loachapoka, when he received a bite to each hand by a copperhead snake. It happened last Wednesday. Leprette, a former medical technician at the hospital, was given anti-venom but his condition worsened because he was allergic to snake venom.
Roger Birkhead, an Auburn University biologist, said most bites from copperhead snakes aren't fatal. He said snakes bites usually occur when people try to pick them up. He urges people to follow one simple rule: leave the snake alone and walk away.
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Can you identify poisonous snakes? It is always a good idea to become familiar with the poisonous snakes in your area, including the outdoor places you plan to visit.
If you are bitten
Poisonous snakes, although uncommon to be seen, have been recorded in all states except Alaska.
If you are unsure about whether a snake is poisonous or non-poisonous, the best thing to do is to avoid it, and don't ever handle a snake even if you believe it to be dead because they have late muscle tremors and reflexes that can cause them to bite even after they are just killed. The bite of poisonous snakes are extremely painful and some are even fatal.
In some areas snakes should be respected and left alone to play their natural part in the ecosystem, which includes eating excess insects, rodents, rabbits and other small prey.
Treating and Preventing Venomous Bites
Types of Poisonous Snakes
Two families of venomous snakes are native to the United States. The vast majority are pit vipers, of the family Crotalidae, which include rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths (water moccasins). Pit vipers get their common name from a small "pit" between the eye and nostril that detects heat and allows the snake to sense prey at night. These snakes deliver venom through two fangs that the snake can retract at rest, but which spring into biting position rapidly. Virtually all of the venomous bites in this country are from pit vipers. Some Mojave rattlesnakes or canebrake rattlesnakes, for example, carry a neurotoxic venom that can affect the brain or spinal cord. Copperheads, on the other hand, have a milder and less dangerous venom that sometimes may not require antivenin treatment.
First Aid for Snakebites
Over the years, snakebite victims have been exposed to all kinds of slicing, freezing and squeezing as stopgap measures before receiving medical care. Some of these approaches, like cutting into a bite and attempting to suck out the venom, have largely fallen out of favor.
Many health-care professionals embrace just a few basic first-aid techniques. According to the American Red Cross, these steps should be taken:
Some medical professionals, along with the American Red Cross, cautiously recommend two other measures:
Some bites, such as those inflicted when snakes are accidentally stepped on or encountered in wilderness settings, are nearly impossible to prevent, but experts say a few precautions can lower the risk of being bitten:
How Not to Treat a Snakebite
Though U.S. medical professionals may not agree on every aspect of what to do for snakebite first aid, they are nearly unanimous in their views of what not to do. Among their recommendations: