Man rushed to Virginia hospital after being bitten by deadly pet snake

Authorities say state police helped rush an anti-venom treatment to a Virginia hospital after a man was bitten Saturday by his pet African Pit Viper, one of the deadliest snakes in the world.

Virginia State Police helped deliver the anti-venom treatment from the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach to Richmond’s VCU Health. Officials said he had received an initial dose of anti-venom treatment from the National Zoo in D.C.

A spokeswoman for VCU Health told WTOP she couldn’t disclose information about that particular case. She did say, however, it is rare for the hospital system to have to request anti-venom treatments from outside sources.

Pamela Baker-Masson, a spokesperson for the National Zoo, told WTOP the last time the Zoo had to provide anti-venom was over a decade ago.

“There’s a concern with the public owning these, especially venomous species, for this very reason,” said Christopher Holstege, M.D., director of the University of Virginia Health System’s Blue Ridge Poison Center, which wasn’t involved in this case.

Holstege said hospitals typically have anti-venom treatments on hand for native snakes, but not for non-indigenous species, like the African Pit Viper. And finding those lifesaving treatments can take time, when every minute counts.

“The sooner you can get treatment, anti-venom, the better,” Holstege said. “These snakes can cause tissue damage, you can get pain, swelling, death to the skin cells, and the muscles underneath potentially.”

He said a venomous bite can also lead to death.

Holstege cautioned not to treat a bite with tourniquets or suction devices; instead call 911.

Owning an African Pit Viper is illegal in Virginia.

The location of where the man was bitten wasn’t disclosed by authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin is an anchor/reporter for WTOP. She started her career in New York City as a local TV reporter and has since covered foreign affairs and national politics as a Washington correspondent. She also anchored a nightly news show for an international network.

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