Poison Center Sees Spike in Copperhead Snake Bites

August 10, 2014

"It's been a really busy year both at the poison center and at the University of Virginia. We've had about 16 patients that we've treated at the University of Virginia and then here at the poison center now just over 100 patients that we've seen," says Dr. Nathan Charlton, Physician at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

The Blue Ridge Poison Center has seen a 50% increase in the amount of reported copperhead snake bites compared to last year.

There are plenty of speculations as to what's causing the spike but The Wildlife Center of Virginia says there is no real way to be sure.

"It could be because there is a population increase, that's possible. It's also possible that people are just more active in copperhead territory. Copperheads typically dwell in wooded areas so it's possible that with good weather people are just more active outside," says Raina Krasner, Outreach Coordinator for The Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Copperheads are just one of three venomous snakes in Virginia. They're relatively small, stretching only about 24-36 inches.

"Now, this isn't a snake that's very likely to kill you. It's very unlikely to result in death in the patients, so relax in that aspect but it could result in some morbidity, meaning your foot is going to swell, your hands are going to swell," says Charlton.

Oftentimes before a bite there's a sighting and when someone spots a copperhead they call up Steve Colvin.

"Especially last year and this year the copperhead sightings have gone way up. We're getting a call either inquiring about copperheads or identifying them by pictures almost daily right now. We've probably picked up maybe 15-20 this year so far," says Colvin, owner of Colvin's Animal Control.

While it could take years to be able to identify why more people are spotting and getting bitten by copperheads one thing is for sure, health experts want you to be careful.

"Make sure you watch where you're putting your hands and feet. Make sure you take flashlights when you're out at night and if you can certainly wear real shoes and not just flip flops when you're walking into these areas where you might come into contact with a snake," says Charlton.

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